Without a trace: Local company leads the way in data destruction
January 8, 2010 – WESTBOROUGH NEWS
by Scott O’Connell
WESTBOROUGH – Good Riddance Day is a New Year’s tradition in New York City’s Times Square, where people congregate to shred the mementos of the past year they want to forget in the next.
This year those paper shredders came from a company in Westborough. But if you think turning Manhattanites’ old love letters into cage lining is about as high profile as it gets for this business, think again.
Security Engineered Machinery, which has headquarters at 5 Walkup Dr., is one of the leading names in the country in secure data destruction. Selling an array of shredders and more sophisticated disintegrators and degaussers, the company has clients ranging from law firms and finance companies to federal government agencies and national defense contractors.
Although the business, which was founded in Westborough in 1967, still sells high-end commercial- and industrial-grade paper shredders, the trend today is towards destruction of computer-based storage devices such as hard drives, optical disks and CDs, according to Michael Paciello, director of sales for SEM.
“More and more information is stored on non-paper media,” he said, which presents a problem to companies and government agencies when they need to get rid of it. Simply destroying a hard drive, for example, won’t do the trick, Paciello said, because “there are still ways to glean some information off of it.”
For around $30,000, customers can instead purchase a magnetic degausser (either a push-button or hand crank model, in case of a power outage), for example, which will completely erase any traces of data – two giant magnets in the device “pull the data apart,” Paciello said. They can then use another of SEM’s machines to physically crush the hard drive.
While such technology is available cheaper on the commercial market, Paciello said SEM is one of the few companies that meets the National Security Agency’s strict standards, which basically means that its products are literally foolproof, as well as precise.
“There’s no way the user could screw it up,” he said. While that level of security may not be necessary for someone trying to shred a bank statement, it is coveted by the government and large corporations, which deal in much more sensitive – and valuable – data.
For many years now SEM has provided equipment to the federal government, Paciello said, and its industrial shredders – which can shred 1,000 pounds of paper an hour – can be found in nearly every U.S. embassy in the world. In more recent years, however, SEM has also seen a surge in business from the private sector.
“They’re becoming more proactive,” Paciello said. Whereas before companies would leave the choice of buying a data destruction machine to their accounting departments, today “more and more legal people and risk managers are making that decision” based on the sensitivity of the data, he added.
In other words, companies are finding it’s cheaper in the long run to splurge on a disintegrator rather than let data worth millions slip into the hands of a hacker or some other high-tech thief.
In addition to offering a line of products, five years ago SEM also created an on-site destruction facility to demonstrate its wares to clients. Today, many of those customers opt to ship data to Westborough to have SEM do the dirty work instead, where they can either watch in person or online to make sure the destruction process is secure.
While it’s logical that the government would be interested in SEM’s services, many other high-profile industries are also in the market for secure data destruction. Casinos, for example, send worn chips and playing cards to be destroyed, and pharmaceutical companies send misprinted labels and recalled drugs, Paciello said.
SEM’s job doesn’t end with the destruction of data, either. The company also sells briquettors, which compress shredded paper into small, cylindrical bricks that can be burned as fuel. In addition, SEM collects precious metals such as gold and copper from crushed hard drives and sends them to a smelter to be melted down.
But SEM’s primary attraction for clients is its ability to make data disappear, according to Paciello.
“We’re selling security,” he said. “The number one thing is to eliminate liability.”