Top 6 Data Destruction Best Practices To Prevent Data Breach

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Rising data protection and privacy concerns have put organizations under tremendous pressure to safeguard and protect consumer data. Emerging regulations and laws like GDPR and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) have pushed businesses to traverse new frontiers of data compliance and privacy. It’s high time for businesses to rethink their data security procedures.

According to IBM, as of 2020 the average cost for data breaches amounts to $3.86 million. A secure and robust data destruction practice prevents any subsequent financial or reputational damages owing to data breach. In this article, we will explore the top 6 data destruction practices for any business entity.

1. Create and Maintain a Formal Data Destruction Policy Document

Create a formal document capturing all the key aspects necessary for performing effective and compliant data destruction. The document should comprise specific guidelines on the type of data destruction method used for the different storage media and information. It should also include all the checkpoints and specific people with their responsibilities through the devices’ chain of custody. Also, maintain the document’s version record and keep it updated as per any new notifications and updates in the industry standards.

How Does a Documented Data Destruction Policy Help?
  •  Enables a Consistent Safeguard Against Data Leakage: A documented policy can ensure consistent and failsafe data destruction across all exit points for the end-of-life or reallocated devices. It can standardize the data destruction practice for all units and subsidiaries of an organization. 
  •  Provides Specific Guidance Based on the Type of Media: The policy document can provide clear and specific guidance for destroying the data based on the media type. For example, the use of physical destruction techniques for optical and tape media and secure data wiping for computers and hard drives.
  • Helps Define the Ownership and Accountability: A well-articulated data destruction policy can help designate specific people and teams to take charge of the storage hardware lined up for data destruction. A precise people-to-task mapping and escalation matrix in the policy can address weak points in the data destruction process while the device transitions through the chain of custody. 
  • Minimizes the Risk of Non-Compliance and Litigation: Formulating the policy considering the applicable data protection laws & regulations can ensure guaranteed compliance for the organization. However, rigorous implementation of the policy is crucial for attaining the outcomes from a compliance standpoint
2. Validate the Documented Data Destruction Strategy

Execute a test implementation of the documented data destruction strategy to surface any gaps or areas that need reinforcement. This practice is beneficial if the organization is rolling out the data destruction policy for the first time.

3. Ensure Due Diligence in the Vendor-Supplied Services

A thorough vendor track-record investigation is crucial before finalizing any third-party data destruction service provider. In tandem, Effective vendor management is another important action on the custodian organization’s part to ensure smooth execution without any lapses or unpleasant eventualities.

4. Include Explicit Clauses for Destruction of Sensitive Data

Include a specific clause in all third-party vendor agreements for certified and verifiable destruction of all types of personal data or PII, including any copies of the PII stored in the cache or temporary files, etc. The clause should place the onus on the vendor for supplying the certificates and reports of data destruction after sanitizing the IT devices.

5. Maintain Records Retention Schedule

Maintaining a meticulous record of the data for retention is as important as ensuring the data assigned for destruction. There is a category of records (sensitive data) that organizations often need to retain for different durations like weeks, months or even years due to operational needs or legal obligations. After the applicable retention duration, these records need to be destroyed in line with the prevailing data protection laws, failing which can lead to non-compliance and penalties. Having an explicit records retention schedule is crucial to ensure timely and effective destruction of this data.

6. Maintain a Repository of Data Destruction Records

Along with rigorous implementation, diligent recordkeeping of the data destruction certificates and reports is equally crucial for attaining the data security and compliance goals. We recommend maintaining a dedicated repository of data destruction records on cloud updated automatically with minimal human intervention. Needless to say that these records should be valid and acceptable from a legal standpoint.

Follow Data Destruction Best Practices For Fail-Safe Compliance

Compliant data destruction is imperative for businesses to operate in the rapidly evolving data privacy landscape shaped by laws such as GDPR, CCPA, and the likes. Today, organizations’ ability to execute a robust “data destruction practice” underpins their chance to sustain the whirlwind of exceedingly nuanced and stringent data privacy laws. Failure to comply can obviously lead to financial losses, brand damage, and litigation on account of data breach; but, it can also dampen the long-term prospects for the company and even risk its existence. This blog post outlined the best practices to attain safe and compliant data destruction in line with the regulatory norms. Following these practices could provide a repeatable and stepwise method to perform data destruction with fail-safe compliance.

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