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What Are Paper Shredder Security Levels

When choosing how to shred your documents, you want to consider the size of the shred. The size of your shredding affects the security of your information and may also affect the cost of your service.

Different Security Levels. What and Why

As of 2018, there are seven different shredder security levels, referred to as levels P-1 through P-7.

With the "P" standing for paper material, each P level corresponds to a different shredding size.

DIN 66399. the latest level standards

The different standards are defined by DIN 66399, which details the maximum area and width of shredded particles, as well as guidance on the best levels for different types of sensitive information.

 For a quick overview, the different P-class sizes from largest to smallest are

  • P-1 level: strips: ≤ 12 mm (½ inch) wide
  • P-2 level: strips: ≤ 6 mm (¼ inch) wide
  • P-3 grade: strip: ≤ 2 mm wide
  • P-4 grade: cross-cut: ≤ 160 square millimeters of particles, width ≤ 6 mm
  • P-5 grade: cross-cut: ≤ 30 square millimeters of particles, width ≤ 2 mm
  • P-6 grade: cross-cut: ≤ 10 square millimeters of particles, width ≤ 1 mm
  • P-7 grade: cross-cut: ≤ 5 square millimeters of particles, width ≤ 1 mm

 Shredder grade P-1: from the top

Strip-cut shredding is safe as a strip cutter, P-1 shredders produce strips of paper ≤ ½" wide and have a high throughput due to their large size.

 Although they are fast, the shreds formed by the P-1 shredder can be easily reconstructed, making them more suitable for less sensitive information.

 P-2 grade: Slightly thinner paper strips

P-2 shredders require strips of paper ≤ ¼" wide, but there isn't much difference other than size.

 While the smaller size provides a small boost in security, P-2 shredders can be risky because of the size of the shredded paper and the amount of potentially sensitive information that can still be readable on a single strip.

 P-3 shredders: taking it to the next level

With strips of paper only ≤ 2 mm wide, the P-3 grade is often favored due to the speed of strip-cut shredders, as it balances the ability to shred large volumes while still maintaining sufficient security to meet legal requirements.

 Shredder Class P-4: Double Protection with Cross-Cut

Cross-cut shredding is the most secure. The boundary from P-3 to P-4 is more than just a security upgrade; it's a shift to a completely different approach to how documents are shredded.

 Instead of the basic strip shredder, the P-4 level includes cross-cut shredders, which cut paper twice and produce shredded paper with only ≤160 square millimeter particles and ≤6 mm width.

 Due to the small size, rebuilding cross-cut shredding is difficult, if not impossible, making the P-4 shredder ideal for shredding sensitive information such as PII.

 P-5 class shredders: smaller cross-cut

The P-5 class is somewhere in between, offering more security with cross-cut shredded particles of only ≤ 30 square millimeters and ≤ 2 millimeters wide, but they are not small enough to meet the NSA's requirements for destroying classified information.

 Because the shredder's speed slows down as the shredded paper gets smaller, the P-5 shredder is ideal for those who prefer the extra security over the speed of the P-4 shredder.

P-6 Class Shredder: More secure but less common

P-6 class cross-cut shredders only have particles ≤ 10 square millimeters and are ≤ 1 mm wide, but like P-5 shredders, P-6 class is still not sufficient to meet NSA guidelines.

 As a result, P-6 shredders fall into the same intermediate category as P-5 shredders - while they are ideal for security-conscious organizations, P-6 shredders are slow and will struggle to handle large volumes of documents.

Shredder Class P-7: The pinnacle of protection

Different shredding sizes offer different security levels The P-7 grade is the most secure type of shredder available, with shredding particles ≤ 5 square millimeters and width ≤ 1 mm, so only up to four characters are visible on a single shred.

 The P-7 shredder is the only shredder type that meets the NSA's requirements for shredding classified and confidential information.

 While the P-7 class offers the greatest security, it is important to note that P-7 shredders are the slowest, processing an average of only 10 sheets per pass.

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