With last week’s International Recycling Day still fresh, Kroll Ontrack has warned businesses that it’s vital to destroy the data that is stored on your old servers, laptops, computers and mobile devices to avoid the risk of it falling into the wrong hands.
In the UK, disposal of electronic equipment is the fastest growing waste stream with an estimated two million tonnes disposed of each year. With this amount of waste, recycling is a step in the right direction, especially for companies that have a lot of unwanted electrical equipment. It keeps old computers, servers and smartphones out of landfill sites and it means that new products don’t rely so heavily on raw materials, as some of the old materials or even parts from previous models can be reused.
Most electrical equipment can be recycled; from servers and desktops to laptops and smartphones, but it should be managed through the appropriate channels. These can be found via DEFRA, or sometimes it is possible to send back equipment to the manufacturer.
Kroll Ontrack recently surveyed businesses and consumers about their recycling habits for their old data storage devices, including servers, smartphones, laptops, tablets and smartwatches. Worryingly, 70 per cent of respondents said that they do not regularly recycle their old devices. One reason perhaps for the lack of regularity is that devices are being used for longer; only 8 per cent of the survey respondents said they updated their devices annually, with most choosing to keep their devices for much longer periods. However, what was concerning was that 11 per cent couldn’t say for certain that they had permanently deleted personal information from old devices they had discarded, thus leaving their personal data to potentially fall into the wrong hands.
Robin England, Senior Research & Development Engineer at Kroll Ontrack said, “susinesses and individuals go to great lengths to protect data in equipment they are currently using via encryption, backups, and redundant systems but often the data which has been protected so carefully is easily stolen from disused equipment if not properly destroyed. If the data was once worth protecting, it is worth permanently deleting. Businesses in particular need to make sure they dispose of data as carefully as they protected it in the first place.”
Recommended methods for destroying data
When recycling your old equipment:
Erasure software – the software overwrites random binary sequences over existing data. This is done several times to minimise the risk of any data being recoverable. It’s important to remember that different storage devices (HDD, SSD, flash media) may need different techniques to successfully delete the data.
When throwing your equipment away with no possibility of reuse:
Degaussing – this method works on devices that store data magnetically (i.e HDDs). It ensures rapid and thorough deletion through a demagnetisation process. This method renders hard drives as completely unusable and can also be used for damaged media.
For more detailed information on sanitising devices properly, consult this secure deletion guide.