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The Security Flaws in your Paper Shredder that you never knew you had!


The Security Flaws in your Paper Shredder that you never knew you had!

Shredders are recognised as an essential tool to destroy your confidential information and prevent private documents from falling into the wrong hands. But how secure is your shredder?

Whether you work at a top law firm or operating from a simple home office set up, understanding a shredders security levels and their weaknesses will protect you from being open to industrial espionage, spying or simple underhand goings-on in your workplace.

Reconstructing your shredded documents…

In the early days of document shredders, most of the shredder cutters mechanisms would cut the document into long broad strips, and with patience, these could easily be put back together by the die-hard investigator or criminal.

In time the cut strips became thinner and thinner, and then came cross-cut shredders or confetti cut shredders, that broke the long strips into pieces for even further security.

Fellowes Cross-cut Shredding

Even with a high shred level, you may not be as secure as you think!

Whilst you may feel safe in the knowledge that your confidential document has been safely shredded. There are helpful, (or unscrupulous, depending on your viewpoint) computer programs available known as unshredders that allow you to scan or photograph the shredded paper from your shredder bin into your computer. You can then run a program that will decipher and re-arrange all the pieces so that it can be reconstructed as close back to the original document as it can be.

So how secure is your shredder?

As we have seen, shredding isn’t just an environmentally friendly, safe way of disposing of paperwork, its primary function is to destroy sensitive and confidential information.

The success of programs like the unshredder will depend on what is known as the P-level, a Paper Shredder Security Level Standardisation, that determines how secure your shredder is based on the final cut size of your shredded document. The higher the number, the higher the level of security. For example, P1 is broad cut strips of paper, very easy to piece together, and the top-level, P7 is normally reserved for military and government organisations.

Drawbacks of high-security shredders

As a general rule of thumb the higher the P level, the finer the cut, however, there is normally a trade-off with the speed of the shredder, as cutting a single a4 sheet into 2000 particles, for example, can take a considerable amount of time.

There and also the thickness/number of documents that it can shred at any one time to consider, lower P-level machines, can process documents more quickly. So choose the level of security that best fits your needs.

Shredder Security Settings and P-Levels

Fellowes Shredding P-Levels Breakdown

Not every Shredder will suit every business, which is why different shredder security settings and P-Levels are available.

P-Levels explained

Paper shredders use a standard classification system being P1 to P7. These determine the security level of the documents being shred. Understanding the size of the shred is the most important factor in deciding which machine is right for business needs.  The smallest cut size falls under level P7 while the largest size is level P1.


The highest level of shredding security. It shreds an A4 document into 12,500 pieces. The most likely pick for Government organisations and Militaries, as the size of the shreds, are so small and there is no fear of any information being gathered from the shredded documents.


This setting shreds an A4 document into 6000 pieces, a close second to the P7 security-wise. Much like the P7 type shredders, machines featuring this level of security would be necessary for legal, military and financial documents containing customer data and records of high importance.


Shreds an A4 document into 2000 pieces. This type of shredding setting would be suitable for organisations or individuals handling confidential personal paperwork such as payslips, financial documents and strategic papers, with a good standard of security but not as high security as the settings listed above.


This security level shreds an A4 document into 400 pieces. This would be a suitable setting for those disposing of bank statements and business confidential documents where it is required the document is shredded to a good standard and unrecognisable still.


Shreds an A4 document into 200 pieces, the lower spectrum of shredding security levels. This type of setting is suitable for the general day to day documents, whether at home or in the office, these containing sensitive data such as addresses etc, and any documents which you do not want to be recognised such as contact information and details.


This setting shreds an A4 document into 40 pieces. This is suitable for the basic day to day non-sensitive data, such as your general documents like promotion papers, leaflets and another non-confidential document which need disposing of.


P-1 is the lowest level of security. Shredders in this category reduce an A4 document into approximately 17 paper ‘strips’ up to 12mm in width. This large cut size means that the shredded material can be easily reconstructed and therefore P-1 rated shredders are designed for non-sensitive general documents.

Shredders and how they can help you with GDPR

77% of companies shred less than 50% of all documents containing sensitive or confidential information.

Ponemon’s 2014 Security of Paper Records & Document Shredding study

Isn’t that statistic surprising? Especially in a world where GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and other consumer right laws are of high importance.

GDPR – or General Data Protection Regulation is the toughest privacy and security law in the world. Originally passed by the European Union (EU) but stems into politics throughout the globe. It focuses on organisations that collect and store data.

General Data Protection Regulation

If you don’t comply with GDPR you could be open to a hefty maximum fine of 4% of your companies’ annual turnover.

Shredders are a perfect way of helping you to abide by GDPR regulations and disposing of unwanted customers records, details or receipts in an efficient, law-abiding way.

Make sure you use the P-Level and Security setting advice provided, and find the perfect machine for your/your business requirements.

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