You password-protect your business computers. You regularly update your systems with the latest malware protection. You limit access to your confidential business information to only those who need it to do their jobs. Most businesses take many steps to preserve their business information, but some forget that information security is not just about data preservation; it is also about effective data destruction and responsible equipment disposal.
Retired computers, cell phones, tablets, monitors, printers, and other high-tech gadgets often contain residual business data—even after they are reset or reformatted. Many of these items are made with hazardous chemicals, requiring special disposal procedures. Smart businesses protect themselves and the environment by formalizing policies and procedures for data destruction and technology recycling. Below we cover some key elements of a technology disposal plan that your business can incorporate into its overall information
Take an Inventory
In the wrong hands, your business information can be a boon to identify thieves, fraudsters, and even competitors. You can also face legal problems if confidential information in your possession, such as employee or customer names, social security numbers, credit card numbers, or other account data, is exposed or stolen. Make sure you always know the location of your personal and business information. We live in a world where personal and business use of technology has all but merged, and mobile devices carry confidential information to places you’ve never imagined. The first steps in any information security plan are to prepare and maintain a list of all devices that you and your employees use in your business and implement employee policies for turning in devices and retired electronic equipment.
Wipe It Clean
Once a device has been retired, it is paramount to take personal responsibility for the destruction of your data. Below are some tips for destroying data on various types of equipment. Servers, Laptops, and Desktops
Deleting files or even reformatting a hard drive is not enough to keep data safe from recovery. There are two methods for ensuring your data is no longer accessible and retrievable from hard drives on servers, laptops, and desktops:
Physical destruction. The simplest and most effective way of destroying the disk is to remove it and physically destroy the hardware. Anything from a hammer to power tools will do the job, but one has to be rather strong—as well as enthusiastic—about this type of destruction process.
Software tools. Drive wipe utility software is available for download (examples are Hiren’s Boot CD and DBAN) and will overwrite your data in multiple passes making it very difficult to access in the future. The more times you overwrite your data, the less likely it can be recovered. This process requires the software download to be burned onto a standard CD-ROM disk, which is then used as a boot up tool when turning on the computer to be wiped. The drive wipe process will take several hours to complete, so be sure the device is plugged in and not running off the battery.
Don’t forget to treat removable media the same as a hard drive – USB thumb drives, external hard drives, and CD/DVDs all should be destroyed or wiped.
Smartphones, Tablets, and iOS devices
There is a huge risk with mobile devices. People often upgrade to the latest version of their chosen mobile device and commonly forget to delete the data off the old device. All smart phones have an option for factory reset—use it when you are no longer using the phone. You can get instructions on how to properly reset other mobile devices through the manufacturer’s support website. Alternatively, you can always destroy the phone or other device as you would a hard drive.
Multifunction Machines, Copiers, Scanners, and Printers
Many people do not realize that multifunction machines, copiers, scanners, and printers have internal hard drives that contain data that has been printed, copied, or scanned. When you are retiring one of these machines or turning in a machine that is coming off lease, make sure it doesn’t leave your building without the hard drive removed or data erased.
Special Considerations for the Healthcare Industry
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act is a US law that created strict privacy standards to protect patients’ medical records and health information. If you are in the healthcare industry and are upgrading or getting rid of a computer, laptop, or tablet, you should take the proper steps to ensure all the data is destroyed or wiped before disposal. (If you are upgrading, you will, of course, have to back up your old device before you destroy or wipe the data.)
Dispose of Responsibly
Now that you’ve destroyed the data on your old device, do you have a disposal plan for it? You should. When old computers and other technology items are tossed out as regular trash, they are taken to landfills where the rain and the elements release hazardous chemicals into the air, water, and ground, with toxic effects on the environment. One way to safely discard your equipment is to recycle it through a certified electronic waste (e-waste) recycler.
For Volusia County businesses, Vann Data Services, Inc. (Vann Data) hosts an annual e-waste recycling program in partnership with A1 Assets of Longwood, FL. A1 Assets is a certified e-waste recycler that adheres to national and international standards for e-recycling, providing a safe way for consumers and businesses to dispose of e-waste. Vann Data provides the venue for the recycling event—the parking lot of their corporate headquarters on Dunn Avenue in Daytona Beach. A1 Assets provides the recycling specialists who ensure that all items are accepted and processed in accordance with certification standards.
Vann Data’s E-Waste Recycling Program
Janice Huffstickler, Vann Data’s President, came up with the idea for e-waste recycling in 2008. Janice saw the e-waste problem emerge as the pace of technological change accelerated: continual customer upgrades stressed the need for responsible disposal of outdated equipment. “We wanted to do something for the community,” notes Huffstickler. “We and our clients can accumulate a lot of equipment—machines die or need to be upgraded. People are constantly cycling through technology. We needed a way to dispose of old technology properly, and an overall desire to be green and to keep toxic waste out of the landfills,” Huffstickler explains.
Now an annual event on or around Earth Day in April, Vann Data’s e-recycling program supports responsible e-waste disposal for the entire Daytona Beach community. People bring computers, servers, laptops, monitors, printers, phones, batteries, and many other types of electronics. “The first year, the recycling event collected about 7,000 pounds of equipment. In 2016, we collected over 31,000 pounds,” indicates Huffstickler. Since starting nine years ago, the Vann Data – A1 Assets recycling partnership has collected over 196,192 pounds (over 98 tons) of equipment. What comes in each year reflects the trends in technology. For example, Huffstickler observes that the adoption of flat screens and laptops led to an influx of the old-style CRT monitors, which peaked in 2012. In 2016, she noticed an increase in printers and copiers, perhaps reflecting the overall shift toward a paperless society. “I think the strangest thing I saw so far was an old soda vending machine,” says Huffstickler. “One of the cooler things that came through a few years back was an old 8-track player—an antique! It made me think about how much the times and technology have changed.”