Classified Data Destruction of Data on Legacy PCs

June 1, 2014 at 4:57 pm by SEM

Sometimes offices are hard to keep organized and clean.

Sure, we keep them clean and tidy them up in case the boss comes by but what about the areas that are not as visual, like our personal computers (PCs)? Just like our attic or garage, our PCs can get just (if not more) cluttered. One day it will be time to upgrade or change them and what is supposed to be done with all the data located on the device? Especially those PCs that hold classified or sensitive information. Files can’t just be deleted, because although you can’t see them, they are still there. So what is the correct way to destroy this information?

Offices and agencies upgrade computers quite often and classified files can’t just be deleted. Instead, files will need to be destroyed by approved government methods, controlled by the National Security Agency (NSA). For guidelines on how to effectively delete data on all forms of media, the NSA publishes a list of equipment that has those capabilities. This list, known as the NSA EPL (NSA Evaluated Product List) specifies which devices are approved for effective deletion of classified, CUI, and top secret data that resides on paper, optical disks, hard drives and other related media.

When offices upgrade their computers, most don’t know how to effectively dispose of them. They typically take the “out of sight/out of mind approach” and put them into a safe, closet or some other secure area for the next guy to worry about. Well, you were just notified of a VIP visit coming up soon and it’s time for a spring clean-up. Guess what? You happen to be the next guy and now it’s your responsibility to dispose of these systems and the classified data that resides on the hard drives.

The first step of destroying hard drives is to degauss them. What’s a degausser? Simply put, a degausser is a very powerful magnet that erases magnetic media (i.e. hard disk drives). For destroying classified hard drives, the degausser must be approved and tested by the NSA and be on their Evaluated Products Listing (EPL). Once you procure an approved degausser (like those found at SEM), you must additionally physically destroy this drive. This can be done using a drill press, or even a sledgehammer. However, easier and more effective options would be to purchase a hard drive crusher or a hard drive shredder.

Once the drive is degaussed and destroyed the information is now officially destroyed to NSA standards. Never worry about discarding legacy PCs again and remember SEM is always here for consultation or help regarding secure data destruction.