Why a Strong Data Destruction Policy is Essential

Why a Strong Data Destruction Policy is Essential

Modern businesses place a lot of emphasis on cybersecurity policies to ensure data security and data privacy, but a data destruction policy is just as important as a complementary tool to achieve many of the same goals.

As with cybersecurity policies, data destruction policies must be robust and strong enough to actively protect the sensitive data of clients and customers. A weakly implemented policy that fails to mitigate costly data breaches, for example, can lead to catastrophic effects for organisations’ finances, reputation, and more.

The Importance of Data Security & Data Privacy Protection

Data security and data privacy protection are essential and go hand in hand with an organisation’s commitment to regulatory compliance and towards protecting sensitive data of their clients and customers.

Around the world, jurisdictions are putting in place frameworks that codify and regulate data privacy – most notably in the European Union with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Increasingly, governments are considering personal data as a fundamental right that must be protected.

Why a Data Destruction Policy is Essential

Secure data destruction is crucial because it eliminates a major source of data breaches to organisations, the unauthorised access to discarded IT assets and potentially some or all of the sensitive data held therein.

A data destruction policy ensures that all of the data destruction processes within an organisation are done in compliance with data privacy protection regulations such as GDPR whilst also mitigating data breaches.

What Should a Data Destruction Policy Include?

Some of the key elements of a good data destruction policy include:

  • Physical data destruction: how, where, and when does your organisation need to physically destroy hard drives, magnetic media, and other IT assets containing sensitive data? Professional IT asset disposition (ITAD) companies often provide physical data destruction methods such as degaussing, shredding, punching, or incinerating hard drives.
  • Wiping/reformatting: when an IT asset needs to be left intact but have all data rendered irretrievable, it is important that your organisation has a plan in place for how employees should wipe or reformat the device.
  • Device backups & data transfer: for devices that are scheduled for destruction, what is the company policy on backups of the devices’ data? How does your organisation plan to destroy backups? What is the preferred method of data transfer, if required?
  • Traceability & accountability: all data destruction processes should be completely traceable and auditable for full accountability in the event of a subsequent data breach or audit. Many ITAD companies provide fully auditable and traceable services, including video verification of destruction and certificate of destruction for every device.
  • Secure logistics: if the IT assets scheduled for destruction need to be destroyed away from the business premises, how will they be transported there? The logistics operation should also be secure and all assets properly inventoried so that no device is unaccounted for.
  • A reliable ITAD partner: for most large organisations, the tasks involved in IT asset disposition such as physical data destruction are best left to dedicated specialists in ITAD. A reliable ITAD partner should always have an outstanding reputation for security and efficiency whilst also providing fully auditable processes. Additional accreditations (e.g. Weeelabex, ISO, eStewards) are also preferred.

Secure Data Destruction Keeps Organisations Compliant

Organisations with a good data destruction policy in place stand to benefit from the additional security and peace of mind that all sensitive data on redundant IT assets has been rendered completely, thoroughly irretrievable. There are other benefits, as well.

With regards to GDPR, the maximum fines can be as high as “€20 million, or 4% of the firm’s worldwide annual revenue from the preceding financial year, whichever amount is higher.” The opportunity cost of having a data breach occur as a result of a poor or nonexistent data destruction policy can therefore be severely costly. Fines for non-compliance have increased seven-fold in the EU in 2022, with some fines reaching as high as €350 million.

Moreover, organisations that have put in place a sound data destruction policy have put forth due diligence, so that even should a data breach occur, the fines can be significantly reduced or dropped altogether. The data protection regulator will consider factors such as the organisation’s willingness to cooperate, whether or not they took precautionary measures, and how much (if any) mitigation was put in place to respond to the data breach.

Increasing Compliance, Reducing Data Breaches

In brief, organisations that implement and enforce an effective data destruction policy will likely have a far better outcome in resolving a data breach with regulators and authorities, should one occur. Traceable and auditable data destruction processes can also help investigators determine the possible causes of the data breach so that corrective action can be taken in the future.

Author Bio: Milica Vojnic is a Senior Digital Marketing Executive Wisetek, global leaders in Data Destruction ServicesData Centre Decommissioning. They are also circular economy pioneers enforcing a ‘Zero Landfill’ policy. IT equipment is resold like their range of refurbished laptops or reused in another capacity.