Was Terry Pratchett’s Data Destruction Plan The Best Way?

Famed author Terry Pratchett may have shuffled off this mortal coil a couple of years ago but he can still grab a headline. Last week, in keeping with his wishes, a hard drive containing his unfinished work was destroyed. But in true Pratchett fashion, rather than settling for the mundane and sterile world of using software to destroy the data, Pratchett’s wish to have his hard drive run over by a steamroller was honoured. But was that the best way to destroy the data?

To be sure, the use of a steamroller makes for a great sight gag. But in this day and age of cloud backups and online storage, we need to think beyond our own computers when destroying data.

If the job of fulfilling Pratchett’s wish was left to me I would have:

  1. Used a disk over-writing program to rewrite all the data on the drive with ones and zeroes several times
  2. Ensured that all backups of the data were destroyed
  3. After the steamroller, I’d have gone the extra step of breaking the drive down further

Pratchett’s wish was for none of his unfinished work to see the light of day.

Data destruction is a real issue for businesses. Aside from ensuring computers we dispose of aren’t sent to second-hand dealers or leasing companies with important or easily recoverable data, privacy rules and the new mandatory breach notification laws that come into play next year mean we need to think carefully about how we permanently erase data.

What do you do about securely deleting data so it can never be recovered?

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