As technology advances, so does the amount of electronic waste(e-waste) produced each year. In 2021 the world produced over 53 million metric tonnes of e-waste. That’s a lot of electronics! So what happens to all this e-waste? Only 17% is recycled properly and the rest ends up in landfills where it can leach harmful toxins into the environment. But there is another danger to consider as well: data security.
When businesses dispose of old hardware, they may be leaving sensitive data vulnerable to being recovered by third parties. This can lead to fines and loss of reputation for the business. An organisation must be aware of e-waste security, by having systems in place and choosing the right data disposal service to protect their data.
|What is e-waste?|
|E-waste is any kind of electronic equipment that has reached the end of its life and is no longer needed. This can include computers, printers, TVs, phones, microwaves, DVDs, and many more.|
The amount of e-waste produced each year is increasing as technology becomes obsolete. The amount of e-waste is growing between 3-4% each year and is expected to be over 70 million tons by the end of the decade. Businesses produce a lot of e-waste, and it can be difficult to know how to dispose of it properly.
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Why data protection is a problem with e-waste?
Much of the e-waste produced each year is not properly recycled and ends up in landfills. This is a problem because when e-waste decomposes, it can leach harmful toxins into the environment.
In addition to the environmental concerns, there is also the issue of e-waste security to consider. When businesses dispose of old hardware, they may be leaving sensitive data vulnerable to being recovered by third parties.
This can lead to fines and loss of reputation for the business. For example, a business might recycle an old computer by sending it to a e-waste company. However, the e-waste company may resell the computer, leading to the data on the computer being vulnerable to being recovered by third parties.
A study by the University of Hertfordshire showed that 2/3 of second hand USB sticks data was still accessible. This can lead to massive problems for a business if this data ends up in the wrong hands.
E-waste security tips
There are a few steps businesses can take to protect their data when disposing of old hardware:
Use data destruction software to wipe the hard drive clean
Businesses can use data destruction software to wipe the hard drive clean. This will ensure that all the data on the hard drive is destroyed and cannot be recovered by third parties. Software such as DBAN and Disk Uitlity are freely available to do this.
Physical destruction of the hard drive
If a business is worried about the data on an old computer being recovered by third parties, they can also physically destroy the hard drive. This can be done by shredding the hard drive into pieces or grinding it into dust.
This will ensure that all the data on the hard drive is destroyed and cannot be recovered by anyone.
Use a certified e-waste company
Another way businesses can protect themselves against data loss is to use an e-waste company that is certified. This means that the company has been accredited by a reputable accreditation body to dispose of e-waste properly. Check what a companies accreditation is, for example are they ISO 14001 accredited incorporating EN 15713 or do they have a NAID AAA certificate?
Things to look out for when choosing an e-waste company
There are generally four ways data lost or stolen from data destruction companies.
During transportation to the recycling facility expand this point
When transporting e-waste to a recycling facility, it is important to be aware of the potential for data theft. Choose a data destruction company that can track and monitor the transportation of your e-waste.
At the recycling facility
When choosing a data destruction company, make sure they have a secure facility where your e-waste will be destroyed. The facility should comprehensive security including CCTV, lockable doors and security guards to protect against data theft.
Reselling of hardware
Some data destruction companies resell components from e-waste. This can be a problem if data is only ‘deleted’ from hard drives. This ‘deleted’ data is still left on the hard drive and is vulnerable to being recovered by third parties.
Another way in which data can be taken from e-waste is through employees of the data destruction company. Make sure you choose a company that background checks their employees and has a comprehensive security policy to protect against data theft.
How to choose an e-waste company
There are three areas you need to check for in a data destruction company when worrying about your e-waste security:
- Certifications –The data destruction company should be certified by the government to dispose of e-waste properly. Certifications to look for include ISO 14001 and EN 15713, NAID AAA, or are they ICO registered? These certifications prove to you that the company has met the requirements of a third body to dispose of e-waste properly.
- Security – The data destruction company should have a secure facility where your e-waste will be destroyed. The facility should have comprehensive security including CCTV, lockable doors and security guards to protect against data theft
- Reputation – Check the reputation of the data destruction company. Make sure they have a good reputation and that their certifications have not lapsed. Steer clear of any companies that offer these services for free.
FAQs about e-waste security
E-waste is electronic waste that includes anything from computers and laptops to phones and TVs.
In 2021 there was over 50 million tonnes of e-waste generated and it projected to rise by 3-4% each year.
E-waste can be recycled and the components reused. However, most e-waste is sent to landfill where it can release harmful toxins into the environment.
When you recycle or dispose of your e-waste, it is important to make sure that all the data on the devices is destroyed. If data is not destroyed properly, it can be recovered by third parties.
If data is recovered from e-waste, businesses can be fined or lose their reputation. It is therefore critically important that you choose an accredited e-waste service provider.
The best way to have e-waste security is to choose a certified e-waste company that has a secure facility. They will be able to dispose of your e-waste and provide you with a certificate of destruction, confirming the data is no longer accessible.