How to securely dispose of materials

It’s 10 p.m. Do you know where your records are?
Securing documents and data doesn’t end when the retention period ends. Secure disposal is the important last step in the material’s lifecycle and can have huge ramifications if not taken seriously.

  • Safeway, an American supermarket chain, was fined $10 million for improper disposal of pharmacy records and waste.
  • A pharmacy in Colorado paid $125,000 to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights, when they were found to have improperly disposed of protected health information in a dumpster accessible by the public.
  • American United Mortgage Company was fined $50,000 for improperly disposing of consumer data.
  • Just last year, Morgan Stanley was fined $60 million for improper disposal of personal data.

These are just a few examples of companies that failed to protect the people who trusted them with their information and paid the price, literally. Following best practices for secure disposal protects LCC, our students and our employees.
What should be shredded?
Short answer: Documents and data that contain sensitive information. Sensitive information will fall under one or both of the following categories:

  • Private – Information that should not be available to the general population. This includes materials such as employee procedure manuals or department financial records.
  • Confidential – Information that needs to be safeguarded because of laws, regulations, standards, policies (such as FERPA, HIPAA or PCI), or because it’s been determined by the college that its loss or unauthorized release would cause devastating financial loss or loss of reputation. Confidential information includes most information about students’ and employees’ academic, financial and medical records.

 What can be recycled or tossed?
Materials that don’t contain private or confidential information are considered Public records. They contain information that is in the public domain or information intended to be communicated to the general public or community, such as course descriptions, newsletters or promotional information about services at the college.
Materials that do not contain private or confidential information can be recycled (or thrown away if they can’t be recycled). A list of recyclable and non-recyclable items can be found in the Records Disposal Guidelines 5Star Knowledge Base article. The list is also included in the “LCC Information Disposal Guide,” which can be found in that same article.
When in doubt … shred. If you’re not sure if the information in your materials is private or confidential, but you know it is eligible for disposal, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
How to shred
Secure disposal looks different for different format of materials. Most of us are familiar with what it means to shred a paper document, but you may not know there is a program available to securely “shred” digital files or data.
Paper materials
While many of us are working from home, “in-house shredding” takes on a new meaning. If you have paper materials that need to be shredded and choose to shred them at home, always use a cross-cut shredder. Straight-cut shredders do not meet the security requirements of LCC’s Information Security Policy.
Digital materials
Individual files and folders on shared drives, hard drives and USB devices can be “shredded” using Spirion (formerly Identity Finder). The Spirion software provides a better option than simply clicking delete because it uses multiple levels of deletion so files cannot be recovered.
Use the following steps to securely “shred” digital materials when they’re eligible for disposal:

  1. To open Spirion – click Start, then scroll down the alphabetical list of programs until you find Spirion.
  2. If a box appears asking for a password, click Skip to use the guest profile.
  3. Click OK on the Guest Profile pop-up box.
  4. Click the Open Advanced Interface button.
  5. Click the Tools tab (along the top).
  6. Click File Shredder.
  7. Add the files you want to “shred” and then click Shred.

If you have questions about secure disposal or for more information about Records & Information Management at LCC, contact Linnea Knapp, Records Information Specialist, at