Shredder Security Levels
An explanation of the DIN security level rating system
Shredders are generally advertised based on the type of cutting that they do. For example, strip-cut shredders cut documents into long, vertical strips. Cross-cut machines shred the documents both horizontally and vertically. However, there is also a security level rating system that can inform consumers about how secure the shredded documents really are. This is based not only on the shredder's cutting method, but the size of the paper left over once it's cut.
The standard security level system comes from Germany and is called the Deutsche Industrial Norm (DIN). There are five security levels in the DIN system (as well as an unofficial sixth that is used almost exclusively by the military and secret service).
- Level 1: Level 1 shredders merely strip-cut the documents, and the paper left behind can be up to half an inch wide. This is not recommended for anything with confidential information, as the remains can be reassembled so easily.
- Level 2: Level 2 shredders are still strip-cut machines, but the paper left behind is one-quarter to one-eighth of an inch wide. This is the base level of security for personal or office documents, provided that the information is not too sensitive.
- Level 3: Level 3 shredders are great for personal use and mid-sized businesses. These machines either strip-cut paper into sixteenth-inch vertical pieces, or use cross-cut blades. Financial, medical, and employee information is considered safe with a Level 3 shredder.
- Level 4: Level 4 shredders simply cross-cut the paper into smaller pieces than a Level 3. These are called Diamond Cut shredders, which refers to the shape of the bits they leave behind. They are good for the same documents as a Level 3, but are obviously more secure. Keep in mind that the higher level the shredder is the less paper it will hold and the longer it will take to shred.
- Level 5: Level 5 shredders are reserved for really high-security destruction jobs. Also called Micro Cut shredders, these are great for government jobs that deal with sensitive material, or for professional document destroyers.
- Level 6: Level 6 isn't really a level, but it's used by departments such as the CIA to reduce confidential documents to powder. The resulting bits are only 1x5mm, making these shredders essentially a Transformer with laser eyes.
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