Company data left on discarded backup tapes is potentially a bigger problem than data left on discarded hard drives. Many companies discard backup tapes before they start experiencing any problems and there is a vigorous market in used tapes and cartridges.
However, Xperien CEO Wale Arewa warns that if the data on those backup tapes and cartridges can pose a bigger problem.
“One needs to consider various options for destroying data on backup tapes including degaussing and tape cartridge destruction,” he said.
The most common method of destroying data on tapes is degaussing, exposing the tape to a powerful magnetic field to scramble the data. If done correctly, degaussing effectively destroys the data on tapes and allows reuse of tapes.
However, degaussing must be done professionally and the tapes have to be exposed to a strong enough magnetic field for the correct amount of time to completely destroy the data. Tapes differ significantly in how strong the magnetic field needs to be.
The degausser also must be matched to the specific kind of tape being destroyed, tapes with higher data densities normally need stronger magnetic fields because the magnetic particles are harder to magnetise and demagnetise.
Many companies are tempted to save time and costs by disposing old backup tapes without ensuring the content is properly erased or that the tape is properly destroyed.
Arewa says the common rule is that tapes containing highly confidential data should not be reused.
“Those tapes should be physically destroyed after they have been erased,” he said.
“Many tape degaussers offer an option to physically destroy the tape, as well as erasing it by methods such as punching holes in the cartridge.
“Selling used tapes is risky because if not degaussed correctly, some of your company data could still be readable when the tape is resold. However, if a tape is properly erased, it is unreadable and not a danger.
“There is also a legal requirement that needs to be considered, by destroying your hard drives and tapes helps keep your business compliant with Protection of Personal Information Act 2013 (PoPI) and the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
“By destroying old hard drives and backup tapes professionally and securely, helps ensure total information privacy for your customers and your business. You work hard to gain the trust of your customers and wouldn’t want to throw it away by compromising their data.”