Residents and Businesses Are Learning That Electronics Recycling may not be Compliance
So. Burlington, VT – March 26, 2012 – Hard Drive Destruction and Electronics Recycling Risks
Today’s computers are faster, more efficient, come with bigger storage and processing 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 problem 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 and the potential of identity theft.
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.
The risk lies with the handling, access, storage, and disposal of the hard drives housed within every computer and removable electronic storage devices. Computer hard drive storage capacity keeps growing. The new norm is at least 500GB of storage. That is a lot of information on a drive that can fit in your hand.
“To give you a visual on the data that can be stored on a 500 gigabyte computer hard drive, imagine a storage room filled with approximately 10,000 records storage boxes full of paper” – Magda Van Ornum, Document Imaging Service Bureau Manager – SecurShred
Hard drives containing confidential material can be found in numerous electronic devices such as laptop, desktop and server computers, smart phones, tablets, standard and multi-function printers, etc.
A recent CBS News special investigation uncovered that digital photocopiers are being recycled with the hard drives still in them. Using a forensic software program available for free on the internet, Digital Copier Security Inc. downloaded tens of thousands of confidential documents from used copiers in less than 2 hours. (www.cbsnews.com, 4/19/10)
“The day we visited the New Jersey (used copier) warehouse, two shipping containers packed with used copiers were headed overseas – loaded with secrets on their way to unknown buyers in Argentina and Singapore.” – Armen Keteyian, CBS News, chief investigative correspondent
On April 19th, 2010, Governor Jim Douglas signed an electronics waste recycling law (S. 77 An act relating to the recycling and disposal of electronic waste), making Vermont the 21st state to have such a law in place. This law bans the landfilling of computers and other electronic devices that contain toxins such as lead, mercury, and chromium. After January 1, 2011, there is a ban on the disposal of the following electronic devices in landfills: Computers including laptops, computer monitors, device containing a cathode ray tube, printers, televisions and personal electronics such as personal digital assistants, MP3s, electronic game consoles, fax machines, wireless telephones, telephones, answering machines, VCRs, DVD players, digital converter boxes, stereo equipment, and power supply cords (as used to charge electronic devices). Besides being harmful to our environment, there are now strict fines associated with landfilling computer equipment.
Across the country, 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. The majority of these free drop-off facilities do not offer hard drive sanitation services.
In 2011, Vermont established the Vermont E-cycles Program. This program allows free drop-off of certain electronic waste devices for residents, 501c3 charities, school districts and small businesses of 10 or fewer employees at convenient locations around the state (www.vtecycles.org, p800-223-0150).
“The security of any personal data or information (such as social security number, tax or banking, business records, or personal identification, etc.) is the sole responsibility of the owner of the electronic device being dropped at a Collection Location for recycling. Don’t simply delete files or reformat your hard drive. This does not destroy all the data.” – Vermont e-cycles
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 overwritten 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.
“There are many stories in which somebody has bought a used computer and found confidential information on it, but nobody has ever quantified the scale of the problem, so we decided to find out.” – Simson Garfinkel, MIT graduate.
In a study performed by two MIT graduates, 158 used hard drives purchased on eBay and other sources of used computer hardware were found to contain massive amounts of confidential information including credit card numbers and other financial information. The grads found that overwrite and delete software was ineffective at removing all data from the drives.
“Imagine having to inform the CEO that 10 million customer records were retrieved off a tape which was sold for $14.00. Bottom line, never sell used media, destroy it. When selecting an outsourced firm (for hard drive destruction) require that they be NAID certified” – Ben Rothke, Author, Computer Security: 20 Things Every Employee Should Know.
In order to protect confidential personal and business information and prevent identity theft, the U.S. and Vermont governments has created and enacted laws to help prevent this from happening. These laws have one thing in common. They all require businesses to safeguard consumer confidential information, regardless of its form.
“Electronic data destruction is to electronics recycling as paper shredding was to paper recycling. When we started SecurShred, here in Vermont in 1999, shredding paper was a new concept for many businesses, and people were simply recycling their confidential paper. Since the implementation of HIPAA and other laws and the dramatic increase in identity theft, paper shredding has become a standard business practice. Simply recycling hard drives containing confidential information is illegal for businesses and risky for individuals. Today, the vast majority of identity theft occurs with electronic data versus paper. Confidential information is confidential information, regardless of it being on paper or on a hard drive, and it must be properly destroyed” – Eric Flegenheimer, Owner – SecurShred.
For a video demo of SecurShred’s hard drive destruction process, go to:
www.securshred.com and click on the Hard Drive Destruction video on the home page
For more information, contact:
David Van Mullen
Certified Secure Destruction Specialist
472 Meadowland Drive
South Burlington, VT 05403
Phone(802)863-3003, ext. 6