News International and hard drive shredding – why its good information security practice

I read in the papers at the weekend that, following an office move, News International last year “shredded” most of the computers used by a large number of News of the World staff.

Leaving aside whether this was a prudent thing to do given the phone hacking allegations and court cases, shredding a hard drive is one of the best ways of securely destroying information. (I love the photos on that website – you really can shred metal).

I blogged about this last year. The problem with erasing data from a drive is that the data recovery people are becoming ever cleverer at reconstructing data. It’s essentially an arms race between data destruction and data reconstruction.

So if you want to make sure data definitely has been deleted then you need to either shred the drive or follow something like the US Department of Defense erase/rewrite standard.

Destruction of disks is something that should be addressed in an organisation’s information security policy, and appropriate requirements specified (or referenced) in any outsourcing or services agreement under which a supplier is processing personal or confidential information.

So whatever the News of the World’s other failings might have been over the years, it’s good to see that their information security policy is robust and ensures that data is properly and completely destroyed, such that it cannot ever be reconstituted.

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