Keeping your information safe and secure starts with knowing how and when to destroy paper documentation. In order to ensure your information is safe, you need to know how paper shredders are classified so you can purchase the correct model.
Paper shredders use a classifications system with seven levels starting with level 1 and going up to Level 7 shredders. The level refers to how secure a document is after being run through the shredder and also indicates the kind of cut the shredder will perform.
Level 1 and 2 Shredders
These shredders are designed for general use by everyday consumers. They cut documents into long thin strips around a quarter inch or six millimeters thick. Level 1 and 2 shredders are often the best choices for individuals looking to shred junk mail and other basic documents at home.
Level 3 Shredders
A shredder at level 3 provides enough security to be useful to businesses as well as everyday consumers. Level 3 shredders can be strip-cutters but may also be able to do a cross-cut to shred documents into particles around four millimeters by 80 millimeters. They are the most common commercial paper shredders used by consumers to destroy personal information like tax documents, credit cards, and banking information at home. They are also used to secure confidential documents at the corporate level.
Level 4 Shredders
At level 4 and beyond, shredders no longer simply strip-cut documents. They use a crosscut to further secure confidential documentation. The remaining shreds are around four millimeters long and 40 millimeters wide. These shredders are used in the corporate sector to help secure company records, the security of which has become a top concern of over 300 executive officers. Level 4 is also the standard for securing personal documentation via federal privacy mandates such as HIPAA.
Level 5 Shredders
Shredders at level 5 become compliant with some government agencies and are the standard for European security. They cross-cut into pieces around two millimeters by 15 millimeters. They are not the highest security shredder available but they are used by smaller federal government agencies but not secure enough for use by the NSA, DOD, or any other security agencies.
Level 6 Shredders
Level 6 shredding is the standard for document destruction for the DOD, NSA, and other United States security and military offices. Documents that have undergone level 6 shredding are cross-cut into pieces less than one millimeter by 12 millimeters. Machines capable of level 6 shredding are not often commercially available for home use but sold exclusively for purchase by government agencies and government contractors.
Level 7 Shredders
With the highest security rating, level 7 shredders are designed to meet the highest standards for government security. Shredders at level 7 leaves behind tiny particles less than a millimeter in width and five millimeters in length. These shredders meet the very highest standards set by government agencies such as the NSA, CIA, and the DOD. They can be used to destroy the highest level of top-secret documentation.
Knowing what kind of shredder you need to match with government regulations and personal security is important. The shredder's level can tell you exactly how secure your information will be and whether it meets the correct standards for your industry.