Learn how to protect sensitive data--as well as the environment.
So, you've finally upgraded to that shiny new smartphone, laptop or company-wide server. As you might imagine, disposing of such equipment is not as simple as tossing it into the garbage. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 2.37 million tons of electronics were planned for replacement in 2009, of which 25 percent were collected for recycling.
There are two main concerns when retiring obsolete electronics: Data security and environmental safety:
Numerous studies indicate that most discarded hard drives still contain readable data, including sensitive material such as social security numbers, corporate financial data and intellectual property. The risk is even greater when you realize the growing number of devices (phones, tablets, copy machines) that now also contain sensitive information. To truly erase the data and protect your organization from identity theft, special software that wipes your drive clean by overwriting its data is required. This approach has the additional advantage of allowing the drives to be safely re-used in most cases. While many companies can permanently erase hard drives and mobile devices, you can also do it yourself with secure-wipe utilities such as Disk Wipe or DBAN for Windows computers, or iShredder for iOS devices. (A web search should uncover solutions for other devices and operating systems.) Just be sure to back up any data you might need later.
Many electronic and electrical appliances contain highly toxic substances that pose significant risks to human health and the environment if they are not properly discarded. Consider donating your working equipment (along with any manuals, monitors, keyboards and connection cables) to programs such as Dell and Goodwill's Reconnect, The Wireless Foundation and Komputers 4 Kids--all of which make sure donated equipment reaches those who need it most. If a device isn't salvageable, be sure to recycle properly. Unfortunately, much of the world's used electronics wind up in developing countries where recycling is not tightly regulated. To avoid this, choose a recycler certified by E-Stewards (e-stewards.org), which ensures compliance with U.N. environmental guidelines.
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