How to Secure Old Hardware Before Disposing of It

Don’t give thieves access to your data when you clean house

Happy data thief | Secure data on old hardwareImagine the grin on a data thief’s face when they realize they hit the jackpot: a thoughtlessly discarded computer processor in a dumpster.

Or maybe they come across it at a thrift store, or even have it shipped to their door off eBay. By the way, if you want to learn more about your options for disposing of old hardware, click here.

Many people don’t think about the implications of failing to secure data on old hardware, and data thieves bank on this ignorance as they collect more sensitive information on discarded equipment.

What’s the worst than can happen?

It’s a valid question.

Why bother wiping or encrypting your ancient hardware, if everything you used it for has gone the way of the floppy disk?

Regulatory compliance | Secure data on old hardwareWell, for starters, you may be legally or policy bound to properly secure data on old hardware. HIPAA has a security rule that requires that all private health information (from old prescription bottles to the files on an old computer) is properly destroyed before disposal.

If HIPAA regulations don’t apply to you, it’s easy to assume your data is old or benign enough to remain without securing. But the danger is in forgetting that one time you used a printer to scan Social Security cards, or banking account information, or an application that included private information.

It’s not worth the risk of handing valuable data over to that grinning thief.

Your options for securing data on old hardware

There are several options to keep your private data out of the wrong hands when you dispose of old office equipment.

You’ve got four basic options:

  • Donate to a charitable organization that will wipe your data before selling. Goodwill Industries, for example, will wipe your hard drive to the standards of the United States Department of Defense. For free.
  • Encrypt your hard drive. This is an affordable option that leaves a jumble of gibberish to anyone who tries to break in. Here are some tips for encrypting your data.
  • Have your old hardware commercially wiped. There are commercial services who use software (or even purging with powerful magnets) to wipe your data. Though this option is hands-off for your organization, and nice if you have multiple retiring devices, it can also be pricey.
  • Wipe your data in-house. Here are some application-based options for DIY wiping, along with their limitations. You can also buy devices that will wipe hard drives, but keep in mind that in-house methods can be very time-consuming. If you only have a machine or two to wipe, these are good options, but a whole retiring fleet of computers could occupy you for weeks.

Don’t forget these other devices may have drivers

It’s not just computer processors you need to be aware of when you’re securing data on old hardware.

These may also contain drivers that need to be properly secured:

  • Printers with scanners
  • Phones
  • Flash drives
  • External hard drives

Want to learn more about securing your personal and business data?

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