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Destroy Data Before Recycling

Recycling is important. We all know that. You probably do it every day, whether in the office, at home or in public. With climate change not going anywhere, it’s never a bad time to start being green.

However, while looking after the planet is key, so is protecting your personal information. Before you recycle equipment like servers, computers, laptops and mobiles, think about the data you’ve ever stored on those devices. Now think about what would happen if that data were to fall into the wrong hands.

It’s estimated that two million tonnes of electrical and electronic waste is disposed of each year in the UK alone. It’s the fastest growing waste stream. With so much of this waste, recycling it can only be a good thing. It has business benefits too because it means that new products don’t have to heavily rely on new raw materials – in fact, sometimes old parts from previous models can be salvaged and reused.

The majority of electrical equipment can be recycled, be it a server or a computer. You should always recycle these through the best channels, which is often by sending them back directly to the manufacturer. A lot of the time they will actually arrange a courier service to pick up your old hardware, meaning it’s barely any effort on your part.

But as we’ve hinted at, you need to discard this equipment and the data on it responsibly. Kroll Ontrack and Blancco partnered up and undertook a study called Privacy for Sale. Their aim was to find out how much data could be discovered on second-hand devices. On examining 122 pieces of second-hand equipment, researchers found that 48 percent of hard disk and solid state drives contained old data. On the mobile phones, 35 percent of them contained emails, call logs, texts, photos and more.

Simply returning these devices to factory settings doesn’t always remove the data on them. The researchers found that deletion attempts had been made on 75 percent of the drives and 57 percent of the mobile devices, demonstrating that factory reset doesn’t stop data recovery.

Businesses put a lot of effort in protecting data they currently hold. Encryption, backups and redundant systems are all put into effect to secure data. However, they often don’t think about the security of this data when they are discarding the devices that stored it.

“If the data was once worth protecting it is worth permanently deleting and businesses in particular need to make sure they dispose of data as carefully as they protected it,” comments Phil Bridge, Managing Director of Kroll Ontrack.

If you’re recycling your old equipment, use erasure software to ensure that the data is completely wiped. This software uses random binary sequences to overwrite the existing data – it does this several times to ensure complete coverage.

If your equipment is being chucked away with no possibility of it being reused, degaussing is a method to be used on magnetic devices. It uses a demagnetisation process to ensure quick deletion of data. But this method is best saved for devices which are damaged beyond reuse, otherwise it could be wasteful.


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