The Complete Guide to Media Sanitization

media sanitization

Simply throwing away your electronic devices puts your sensitive personal data at risk, including your financial or medical information. That is on top of any risk of not following eWaste environmental laws that may be in place for your state or county.

Whether you plan on transferring ownership of your electronics or disposing of them, following best practices for media sanitization is essential. These measures are intended to render your information inaccessible before the storage device is properly recycled. This process is known as media sanitization.

Why Media Sanitization Matters

As personal information and confidential data become increasingly digitized, potential vulnerability also increases. For example, hot-swapping data between systems is a common practice that could leave electronic information vulnerable during the retrieval and transfer processes. 

Confidential data is intended to remain protected from unauthorized parties, regardless of who owns the device on which the information is stored. For organizations and businesses that handle a large amount of personal data for clients, customers, or patients, mismanagement of the data can also result in potential legal penalties.

Whether operating a business or ridding yourself of a personal electronic device, proper media sanitization can ensure that your information remains confidential. Taking a proactive approach to mitigating potential exposure can save you from a wide range of potential consequences in the future.

Electronic media is data that is stored and displayed using an electronic device, such as a computer, smartphone, or tablet. This information is housed on storage devices like a hard drive, memory card, flash drives, and many other similar solutions.

Like hard copy media, storage devices that contain electronic media could be retrieved from a trash receptacle or landfill. Though they will require another device to access them, their information can still become compromised by unauthorized third-parties if not sanitized properly.

Types of Media Sanitization Techniques

There are multiple media sanitization methods that can be used to protect your data from unintentional release. Depending on the nature of the information on the device, one or more of the following solutions may be recommended:

Disposal and Recycling

Simply disposing of an electronic device or system component in the trash is highly advised against in most cases. If your system components contain potentially toxic or precious materials like lead, gold, or copper, they should be taken to an electronics recycling center like ProTek Recycling. These materials can be extracted and reintroduced into the manufacturing process for new products and prevent potential contamination of a natural ecosystem as electronic waste. At ProTek we have a zero landfill policy so rest assured your data is protected and recycled properly.

Clearing Data

Clearing refers to sanitizing data in all storage locations that could be accessed by a user using simple non-invasive methods. In scenarios where clearing is sufficient, the process is typically performed on the storage device using a standard Read and Write command. This could include actions like initiating a factory reset using the device’s standard menu options or replacing data with new values.

Purging Data

Purging involves rendering sensitive data completely unrecoverable, even using the most advanced and sophisticated techniques available. The information has become entirely obliterated from the device, though the physical storage solution may remain structurally intact.

Destroying Data

While purging data typically leaves the physical storage device intact, destruction involves obliterating it completely. This prevents both the information and the medium it is stored on permanently inaccessible.

A common example of data destruction solutions include electronics shredding services of which ProTek Recycling offers our clients. An electronic shredding service grinds up the storage device into fine pieces that cannot be reassembled. 

Cryptography and Cryptographic Erasing

Another emerging trend in media sanitization is encrypting data so that it cannot be retrieved without first containing a means to decrypt it. For example, using a virtual private network (VPN) when browsing the internet encrypts your data so that no one can access your browsing history.

Similarly, a hard drive or flash drive can be encrypted using a software solution that then requires a specific key or code to access. If someone attempts to retrieve the information without the necessary key, it will appear unreadable as if it were written in gibberish.

However, any cryptographic approach does leave the information on the storage device, even if it cannot be readily accessed. Be sure to also sanitize all decryption keys if you plan to remove encrypted data from a storage device as an additional precaution.

Get Media Sanitization Services in NJ, NY, PA, CT, and Boston

As a NAID AAA-certified electronics recycling service and an NYS Document Destruction Contractor, our team at ProTek Recycling provides thorough media sanitization and destruction services for your commercial or personal devices. With both remote and on-site capabilities, we ensure the thorough obliteration of your sensitive data so that you can maintain your confidentiality as a private individual, business entity, or government organization.

To learn more about how we can assist you, contact us today.

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