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Have you ever wondered if a magnet could erase the data on your hard drive? If you ever watched the hit TV series Breaking Bad, you will know that yes, it is possible to destroy the data on a hard drive by using a magnet. However, this is mainly because the force required to erase the data also has quite catastrophic effects on everything else around it. You see, you would need a really strong magnet with a pull force of at least 450 pounds to have any effect on a hard drive, an this kind of force is incredibly dangerous. If you tried destroying the data on our hard drive with this kind of magnet odds are you would succeed, but only because you had destroyed everything else in the room as well.

This month we wanted to expose a few myths about destroying hard drives, and let you in on the real secrets of data destruction.


The Future Is Not Magnets

It’s a very common idea that magnets will destroy data on electronic devices if they get close enough. And while you might be able to deactivate your credit card by holding it up to a fridge magnet, you would have to be there a long time to make it work. The myth that magnets destroy data instantly stems from old electronic devices like CRT monitors and the first TV’s, which were incredibly susceptible to magnetic fields. These devices had to be installed with degaussing coils to ensure they could work, otherwise they would start to fail if a person stood too close to it. More modern electronics have been built to withstand daily exposure to the magnetic fields all around us, making devices like hard drives and smartphones. Not only that, but your average magnet, or even a relatively strong one would not destroy the data on your hard drives. The folks at Digital Trends conducted an experiment and placed heavy duty magnets on either side of a running hard drive, then tried to access the data. They found all the data in tact and no damage had been done.


Formatted Does Not Equal Data Free

Another common misconception is that if you format your hard drive, it is as if new and you have removed all of your data. This is all most people do before selling said drives on, and this is incredibly risky. A study done by MIT in 2003 took 258 used hard drives, 60% of which had been fully reformatted, and subjected them to forensic software programmes. Using this basic software they were able to recover over 5,000 credit card numbers, medical records and other highly personal information from these hard drives with ease. In short – just because you formatted the drive doesn’t mean it’s clean, and you could be giving your private information to complete strangers. It’s a scary thought.


Recycling Hard Drives Is A Security Risk

Typically there are 3 ways a business will deal with old hard drives, and 2 of these methods present huge security risks. The first option is to simple stockpile them, keeping them stored in boxes in warehouses or in locked cupboards. This presents a theft risk, and allows a potential thief access to all of your information at once. Option number 2 is to recycle them, – typically by formatting them to wipe the data and selling them online. A UK study of hard drives bought through online auctioning site eBay found that the data was easy to recover on 72% of the hard drives. Secret option number 3 is to format the drive, and then have it professionally destroyed by a company specialising in data destruction. You might not make that £40 selling it online, but just think – is the risk worth £40?


Don’t Forget The Smartphones

Of course nowadays we are all carrying around a hard drive in our pockets. Another study conducted by BT showed that a staggering amount of company data could be retrieved from phones. In total 160 smartphones bought via online auction, BT was able to recover sensitive company information such as salary details, financial comp any data and personal medical details. So if you are equipping your workforce with mobile phones in order to empower a flexible working environment, just don’t forget to wipe them when they come back! Treat them as if they were a standard hard drive, because they could do just as much damage to your business.


The lesson here is that the only way to be sure your data has been wiped completely is to destroy the hard drive. That’s why data destruction specialists such as ourselves provide simple and affordable solutions to help you keep your data secure. If you’re unsure about how to get rid of your company data, get in touch and ask about our hard drive shredding service today.