What are the differences between the security levels of a shredder?

posted this on Jul 9, 2015

When buying a paper shredder for either home or office use, there’s a lot of think about. Some of the things you must consider include the machine’s shredding capacity, if it can handle paper fasteners, how loud it is, and the price, naturally. You need to also think about what kind of security the machine has to offer. Paper shredder security is indicated by a rating of Level 1 to 6, with 6 offering the most security. Shredder security is important because it ensures your private documents will be safe from identity thieves. It can also help you keep your nose clean when it comes to complying with federal privacy laws. What follows is an outline of all 6 levels so you can determine which one you need for your document shredding. 

1.) Level 1. This is the most basic security and it’s typically only found on strip-cut machines. Shredders with this rating produces shreds that can measure anywhere from 3/8″ to 1/2″ wide. These devices are good for shredding everyday documents, such as junk mail, and are the ideal choice for individuals wanting to shred at home.

2.) Level 2. At this level, cross-cut shredders come into play because they offer more security than strip-cut models. A Level 2 strip-cut shredder’s pieces will be between 1/8″ and 1/4″ across, whereas a cross-cut machine will produce shreds as small as 9/32″ x 1-1/2″. If your documents contain a bit more personal information, a Level 2 device should be used.

3.) Level 3. This is the perfect amount of security for confidential business and personal documents such as old tax returns, canceled checks, personnel information, and more. Three is the highest rating for a strip-cut shredder; it’s all cross-cut devices from here on out. Particles produced by these cross-cut units are tiny, with the smallest measuring 5/32″ x 1″.

4.) Level 4. This is the second highest amount of security and it can be used by businesses that need to comply with federal privacy laws, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). These devices are great for when the items you need to shred contain information that’s critical to your company’s existence. The smallest shreds this type of machine produces measure 1/16″ x 5/8″.

5.) Levels 5 and 6. These are the machines to use when dealing with very private, highly classified information. They’re great for governmental offices that need to really keep their information under wraps. Most of these devices meet the standards outlined in NSA/CSS Specification 02-01, which basically means they’ve been approved for use by the government and military. When you use a machine with one of these ratings, you’ll be amazed at how small the shreds are, with the smallest measuring a scant 1/32″ x 3/16″. If you can’t let any information be seen by an outside party, a Level 5 or 6 machine is what you need.

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