Data breaches spark hard-drive shredding boom

This is a great time to be in the hard-drive shredding business, as companies scramble to destroy data before the bad guys have a chance to steal it. A look inside the belly of the beast

Thanks to all the fear over data security breaches, a computer recycling operation has morphed into something much bigger - and potentially more lucrative - for the Saraiva brothers.

That's not to say the nature of their work has changed much. They still make money off of companies looking to unload devices that have outlived their usefulness. They still stuff the gadgetry into a shredder on the back of a truck that reduces it to shrapnel.

The difference is they're now part of the fight against data thieves.

Their company, Corporate Destruction Solutions, is rapidly expanding to accommodate organizations desperate to destroy old hard drives before they can fall into the hands of data thieves. And they're not alone. Several companies in the metal-shredding business confirm a surge in demand for their services in the wake of many highly-publicized data breaches.

"We've been focusing on hard-drive shredding for about a year and a half," says James Saraiva, who runs the business with his brother, Phil. "Before that it was all about recycling old computers." But one day a customer had trouble parting with the hard drives of those computers because a massive data breach had made the news. The brothers immediately saw the opportunity before them.

They recast the business as one specializing in the destruction of hard drives for the sake of keeping sensitive data out of sinister hands.

"When we started this there had only been a few data breaches," James Saraiva says. "As more and more breaches have made the news, this service has really taken off. Every time there's a data breach we get a lot of calls." One customer is a large retailer that suffered a massive security breach. Saraiva asked that the retailer not be named, as doing so could damage the business relationship.

The belly of the beast

The heart of Corporate Destruction Solutions is a blue beast of a machine that sits on the back of a small white truck James drives from one customer to the next.

After recording the hard drive serial number, he drops the small metal slabs into a slot atop the machine, and from a TV monitor he can watch the drives falling between steel grinders. Sparks erupt from the hard drives as they're torn to pieces. At the end of the process, all one can see on the monitor is smoke and tiny fragments of metal. The machine spits the remains into a bucket, and the shrapnel is then sent off for recycling. The customer then receives a certificate as proof that they had their hard drives destroyed.

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