The ability to piece together shredded documents has been in the news multiple times recently. In this post, we will explore how this is possible—and how businesses can avoid security breaches that can result from improper shredding policies.

The Feds are Reassembling Michael Cohen’s Documents

Photo of an FBI Police car b Tony Hisgett via Flickr
“FBI Police Car” by Tony Hisgett is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Michael Cohen, the longtime attorney and “fixer” for President Trump, has been in the news for many reasons in the past few months, but one story in particular caught our eyes here at Shred One: prosecutors have been piecing together shredded documents that were seized during the FBI raid on his hotel and office.

To give you a quick recap: recall that federal agents raided Michael Cohen’s law office, home, and hotel room back in April. They obtained hard drives, electronic devices, and “as many as 10 boxes of physical documents” according to The Wall Street Journal. That apparently includes the contents of an office shredder. (For a full recap of the Michael Cohen story, this PRI explainer article will bring you up to speed.)

Since then, the government has successfully reconstructed approximately 16 shredded pages of documents found in the office shredder, and has obtained the contents of “encrypted messaging apps” that amount to “731 pages of messages and call logs.” While Cohen most likely considered that information destroyed, it is now available to third parties.

Trump’s Ripped Papers are Reconstructed by Staffers

A related shredding story also popped onto our radar in the last few weeks: This one details how the President has been unable to kick the habit of ripping up documents once he’s finished with them.

The problem is, the Presidential Records Act mandates that “every document during a presidency is publicly owned and must be filed and saved as a historical record at the National Archives.” For this reason, his staffers have had to tape many documents back together for archiving.

How Businesses Can Protect Themselves

While we do not intend to comment on political matters (nor would we ever advocate for shredding evidence), knowing that shreds can be reassembled and used by another party should put security-minded businesses on alert. Fortunately, by following best practices any business can rest easy knowing their confidential business information and private data is secure.

The most important thing to remember is that documents “destroyed” at your office are rarely rendered completely inaccessible. Consider what a document looks like after going through a shredder. The long strips (and even the cross-shredded pieces) can often be reassembled—either by hand or with computer programs. All it takes is enough time and motivation, regardless of whether the pages have been ripped up by hand or put through a common office shredding machine.

Be sure to read our shredded document reconstruction blog post to learn more about what it takes to piece together shredded documents.

Professional Shredding

The best way to protect your business information from prying eyes is to use a professional shredding service that will render your documents completely destroyed. Our industrial machinery turns your documents into smaller pieces that are mixed with hundreds of tons of other shredded documents before being turned into a soupy pulp and, finally, recycled.

Additionally, when it comes to digital information, it is also important to properly dispose of electronics. (Recall that Cohen’s Blackberry information has been accessed by investigators.) Our professional electronics destruction will completely destroy computers, hard drives, cell phones and more—ensuring complete and secure disposal.

Learn more about Shred One’s services or contact the experts to receive a free estimate.