By: JoEllen Barton, SecurShred
Today’s computers are faster, more efficient, come with bigger capacities and are being produced at virtually the same price now as they were 18 months ago. This advancement in new technology has created a huge mess in terms of what to do with our old technology. In order to keep up, companies need to continually upgrade their software and electronics. This creates a tremendous amount of e-cycling waste and increases the risk of confidential material being leaked or the potential of identity theft. In order to protect businesses and consumers the government has created and enacted laws to help prevent this from happening such as FACTA, Gramm-Leach-Bliley, HIPPA, and the Red Flag Rules.
In 2009, 5 million tons of electronics were in storage and 2.37 million tons of electronics were ready for end-of-life management. Out of that, only 25% was collected for recycling. (www.epa.gov, October 2011) Many people are misinformed or not properly educated on what to do with their old technology once it has become obsolete and is ready for the scrap pile. Did you know it is illegal to landfill computers and electronics? Computers, monitors, IPod’s, phones, etc all have hazardous materials in them such as lead, mercury, and chromium. Besides being harmful to our environment there are now strict fines associated with landfilling computer equipment. “If your discarded computers or monitors are found to be contaminating a landfill, your firm can be traced through the serial numbers recorded when they were originally purchased and you could be held liable for the clean up and/or given a substantial fine” (Legal Management, June 2007).
Recently individual States have begun to work with local recycling and waste removal services to offer computer and monitor recycling for free. Though these programs are intended to help with the back log of computers in storage and to keep them out of landfills, there is still the concern of the confidential information that is housed in them. Majority of these facilities do not offer hard drive sanitation services or even check to see if the hard drives are still installed in the computers. There are also programs that are designed to help place computers into the hands of people that do not have them. This recycling program places refurbished computers into needy schools in all over the world. If you have a computer that is properly sanitized by a professional this is a great way to e-cycle your old computer. If you are a business or an individual that stores sensitive information on your computer, it is best to remove your hard drive and replace it before donating it to be on the safe side.
Companies and individuals trying to save money and/or recoup some of their losses on this old technology make a foolish mistake by thinking they can simply erase the data on their hard drives by conventional means. Reformatting is simply not a secure way to eliminate the information written on a hard drive. As long as a hard drive can spin, information can be extracted from them. Some sectors of a hard drive may not be successfully over written due to undetectable defects in them. The undetectable defects on the drive that were not wiped clean may actually enable retrieval in its next life. Another mistake that is made is to resell the equipment on the mass market where it can be picked up by anyone with out proper sanitation being performed on the internal hard drives. “Remembrances of Data Past” (IEEE Security and Privacy, January/February 2003) concludes that “the secondary hard disk market is almost certainly awash in information that is both sensitive and confidential.
The most secure way to ensure your information is safe is to remove your hard drive and to physically have it destroyed by a NAID Certified Company. The National Association for Information Destruction (NAID) is a watchdog organization of the secure information destruction industry. For many years, NAID has certified qualified companies that provide secure paper and hard drive destruction services. When choosing a computer disposal company there are 6 factors you should look at:
1. Is the vendor’s facility secure?
2. Does the vendor screen its employee’s?
3. Review the vendor’s written procedures and other paperwork.
4. Look beyond the vendor’s marketing claims.
5. Examine the vendor’s physical destruction capability.
6. Appraise the vendor’s security focus.
7. Know what your company is doing with its old computers.
Despite the temptation to deal with computer disposal as just another facility management issue, the process you choose and the vendor you select speak to the integrity of your firm. The cost in time and dollars for appropriately protecting a firm’s vital information is well worth fulfilling this ethical responsibility so critical to a lawyer’s fiduciary charge.
Destruction of your old hard drives does not have to be a scary process. SecurShred, a NAID Certified paper and electronic media destruction company has recently launched Ship-n-Destroy.com. Ship-n-Destroy is a secure online shipment destruction company that specializes in the secure destruction of electronic storage media such as hard drives & backup tapes, as well as, paper. It’s easy to Ship-n-Destroy! Simply fill out an online quote/order form, select one of two options, Premium or Regular Service, and ship us your material using a preprinted UPS shipping label. With Premium Service, you have the piece of mind knowing your confidential material will be transported to our facility using a lockable tote that comes with two numbered locks. Using Regular service, you are able to use your own packaging to ship your materials to our plant for destruction and recycling. At any time, you are able to track your package from our website under your account login.
Ship-n-Destroy’s secure plant is operated by SecurShred, an information destruction & electronics recycling company, that has been certified for hard drive & paper media destruction for plant-based and mobile operation by the National Association for Information Destruction (NAID). SecurShred has been in business since 2000 and is an A-rated member of the Better Business Bureau.
For more information regarding Ship-n-Destroy and SecurShred, visit our websites www.shipndestroy.com or www.securshred.com.