One company is offering to resolve the perennial problem of how companies can securely dispose of old hard drives containing valuable commercial data, after it setup a mobile disk shredding service that will come to a customer's site and destroy old hard disks.

The news often contains stories of company data being found on old computer equipment, but in response UK-based DiskShred will send in a lorry, equipped with a purpose-designed shredder, to destroy old media technology.

"We felt the need for a mobile service was called for because of the vast number of data loss debacles, and people losing confidence in existing disposal methods," said Keith Pryde, business development manager at DiskShred.

"Under the data protection act, the data controller is legally required to ensure redundant data is properly disposed of when it is no longer required. In practise this means that the owner of the data has a duty of care to oversee the destruction of old data. That was the reason we went for a client witnessed service."

"We modelled it on the paper shredding lorries that destroy confidential paper documents on site," he said. "We designed the truck in the same principle, except that it had to be toughened to shred hard drives."

"People can say I saw that hard disk being shredded into fragments," he said. "Things like hard disks containing valuable data being found in Ghana happens all the time. There is a lot of coverage about civil servants leaving a laptop on a train or discs being lost in the post, but end of life data is often more dangerous because it is not regarded as live data, however the damage to an organisations reputation can be equally dangerous."

Pryde said that DiskShred also offers disk wiping technologies such as Blancco, which does its job when reuse is the principle driver. "But some clients insist on total destruction in order to meet their own information security audit procedures," said Pryde. "The client sets the standard, and we responded to the demand for onsite witnessed destruction."

Pryde also pointed out that faulty hard disk drives cannot be verified as been wiped successfuly by conventional degaussing methods. A degausser uses an electrical magnetic field to destroy or jumble data on the magnetic platters. "If the HDD is faulty, there is no way to test if the data has been thoroughly destroyed," said Pryde. "Also, the HDD looks the same after being degaussed, so the client often may not believe that the data has been destroyed, therefore physical destruction is much more believable and offers peace of mind."

"Another advantage is that it is not just HDDs," he added. "When we turn up, clients can purge other old media, such as backup tapes, USB sticks, and even mobile phones, CDs, and floppy disks."

The DiskShred lorry is self powered, and the heavy duty industrial shredder operates from an onboard hydraulic system, powered by the truck engine.

"Our uniformed staff arrive on site, with identification, and then once an audit count of all equipment is completed, the items are taken and passed through the shredder on lorry," said Pryde. Platters are not removed beforehand as the lorry can shred the entire device. DiskShred also offers to remove the HDDs from old computer equipment.

Pryde said that the shredder is designed in such a way that material cannot pass through the shredder until it is shredded to its own standard.

"It is fully compliant with WEEE directives because the shredded material is completely recycled," said Pryde. "HDDs do not contain hazardous materials like computer monitors do." The debris or mutilated fragments are taken away to a licensed processor for recycling. "It acts as a double layer of data protection, as the disk is shredded and the resulting material is recycled," said Pryde.

DiskShred then issues a certificate of destruction, fully detailing the quantity of items that have been destroyed.

The company has been recently audited and is awaiting the certificate BS8470:2006 for secure destruction of confidential material. It has also currently applied for and waiting for full government accreditation under the CCTM claims test mark scheme by the CESG.

Financial institutions, insurance companies, as well as legal and accountancy firms typically use the service and DiskShred is also a specialist subcontractor used by the IT Services industry.

Pricing is on application, but typically depends on the quantity of equipment to be shredded. A video demonstration is available on the DiskShred website.