Recycling Hardware: Good Intentions Turn Risky

Recycling Hardware: Good Intentions Turn Risky

Is It Time For A New Machine?

How has your computer been treating you these days? Does it take you over an hour to download one song? Does it crash every time you have more than 3 programs open? Is that single USB port a dead give-away to how ancient your computer truly is?

Isn’t it time to throw out that piece of junk or donate it? The answer is yes, but be careful. Your quest to finding a new Pentium dual-chief processor with 2gigs of RAM and a terabyte of hard excursion space, may rule you to overlook one crucial detail…just how much your old computer knows about you?

Behind the Screens – What your Computer Knows About You and Your Business

Computers are an enigma to most users. The average person knows how to create, open, save, and delete a document. However, what most people don’t know is that saving a document will save it for eternity, and deleting it will not truly delete it. In fact, it has only deleted the document from visibility; out of sight and out of mind, but not out of the hard excursion. The history of the document remains intact and can be used to retrieve it in complete, already after deleting the file from the recycle bin, or conducting a complete system reformat.

Without the proper tools to overwrite or encrypt the data on your computer, you open yourself up to problems that arise from one generous act of recycling an old computer. According to a study conducted by Edith Cowan University, individuals and organizations alike are taking huge risks by recycling or disposing their old computer hardware parts without making sure the data stored is completely erased.

What’s At Risk?

More than 300 random hardware parts from Australia, UK, North America, and Germany, were randomly purchased and used to extract data. A bevy of sensitive information was found on those machines like “payroll information, mobile telephone numbers, copies of invoices, employee names and photos, IP addresses, network information, illicit audio and video files, and financial details including bank and credit card account [information].”(1) Imagine how detrimental this could be for a company if this information got into the wrong hands!

Tips To obtain Your Hardware Donation

Well-intended computer users are oblivious to the dangers that come from improper disposal of computer hardware. It’s imperative that the average computer person understands how to prevent these dangers. Here are a few tips on securing and erasing data before you donate:

  • Demagnetize the hard-excursion with a kind I or kind II “degausser tool”. This is generally known as “erasure”. the time of action changes the magnetic alignment of your data so that its magnetic domain points in other places, making your data indecipherable; similar to how you would dupe a compass.
  • Using a disk sanitizer such as Disk Wipe, which will overwrite your original data with “gibberish” so it, too, will become indecipherable.
  • Encrypt files with software that provides strong encryption to protect sensitive data, including spreadsheets, information docs, and email messages and attachments

Protecting your Donation, applying Anti-Theft Measures

Compared to the other solutions, encryption is a more effective and flexible method of protecting documents on your hard-excursion. Anti-theft measures like encryption can truly safeguard data while a computer is nevertheless in use, ensuring that the data is both easy to reach (to those empowered) and protected at the same time. If a computer gets donated without thoroughly demagnetizing or sanitizing, encryption adds a security buffer. This ensures that the person or organization taking your old machine doesn’t get any bonus donations of personal or sensitive information.

Smart Stewardship

Our society has reached a climax never before achieved in the history of technological advancement. This should imply a heightened understanding of proper care, use and disposal of such technologies. If you’re nevertheless itching to get that new computer and discard the old, just remember that there are many things your old computer knows about you. Make sure you know just as much about your old machine and what can consequence from not securing or cleaning data off of it. Your charitable donation shouldn’t consequence in years of chasing your reputation or cleaning up your credit.

End Notes:

1) Louisa Hearn, “Second-hand drives keep up your secrets,” Sydney Morning Herald. 17 July 2006–desktops/secondhand-drives-keep up-your-secrets/2006/08/16/ 1155407872679.html [–desktops/secondhand-drives-hold-your-secrets/2006/08/16/ 1155407872679.html]

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