For our VERY FIRST installment of “What Do Other Companies Do” (WDOCD), Randy Smith has asked the following:

“What specifications do other companies require for Secure Tape Destruction (especially for older tapes that could have pre-encryption account number data). To my understanding PCI does not provide a specification.

What standard seems to be “secure enough” for older tapes potentially with unencrypted data?

Do you feel that standard is OK to relax when all the account number data is encrypted?”

Excellent question Randy! Virtually every company we work with has some sort of destruction policy for media, and it varies from using a bulk eraser, to pulling out the DeWalt and drilling a hole right through it (yes, one company we have done work for does exactly this after a bulk erase), to enlisting a third party media destruction firm, to transferring the media back to the manufacturer for analysis and destruction. A quick search on YouTube will show you many more creative methods to destroy these devices (though not recommended by this humble security consultant).

Specific to PCI, the only destruction standards mentioned are ISO standards that have nothing to do with destruction at all. Slight oversight that we hope will be corrected soon.

What is actually required is some method to destroy the data or media such that the data cannot be recovered. Small tape strips are minor risk, but incineration or shredding seems to be the best method to ensure the data is not recoverable.

For tapes where the account number is encrypted, I do believe a relaxed method would be appropriate. In fact, if you filled a FedEx truck with tapes of encrypted data, and then left it in the open for people to take those tapes, you would not be required under state laws (today) to notify the affected individuals! The card associations might take a different view of this of course.

The answer: For unencrypted tapes, be sure you do a very thorough degaussing before taking them to your vendor for physical destruction. This will ensure that any leftover fragments will not have any data on them to recover. For encrypted tapes, shredding with 3 to 6″ tape strips left over should be acceptable.

Thanks for the question Randy! For your time, keep your eyes open for a little gift from us!

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