Kenneth Neil, Director, UAskmE, discusses how we can securely and responsibly dispose of our old devices.
In this region we love our gadgets. They keep us in contact with friends and family 24/7 and allow us to work wherever we want. We keep our photographs and our contacts among other things in there, we tell the world what we have been doing and where we were doing it, we pay our bills using them and therein lies the problem. Our entire lives are now in the palm of our hands, so what then happens when we no longer want that device?
We cannot simply throw these devices away because we all know that this is not environmentally friendly.
So if we cannot throw them away, can we sell them and the short answers is yes, but…
The risk from selling a device whether it is a mobile phone, a laptop or a tablet is that the data does not retire when you choose to retire it. We all know that formatting a hard disc on a PC is no longer sufficient to prevent data being retrieved from is, and so is the case with a factory reset on a mobile phone or tablet.
If the data is not securely destroyed then the next owner of the device can potentially access your data and start to use that information against you. This may be cyber-criminals who wish to use your identity for financial gain, or it may be someone using your device to post on social media information, which may be illegal.
So now that we understand that there is an environmental and a data risk linked to these devices, what should we do when we no longer want to use them?
The first and most critical step is to ensure that your data is securely destroyed. There are a number of vendors who provide this via highly approved software solutions. The software should provide an automatically generated certificate with the full device details. If you choose to download a free software then ask first what is in this for the programmer who wrote the code? Did he do it because he is a nice guy?? I think that we can all guess the answer.
Once you have this certificate then you know that your data has been securely destroyed and the device can then be sold with none of your information on there and it should look exactly like it did when it left the factory.
There are other solutions that organisations consider such as shredding or degaussing, and while these have recognised ability to achieve data destruction, they completely prevent any form of reuse. In addition to this, they rely 100% on manual data entry to complete an audit trail. The success and failure of the reporting relies completely upon the accuracy of the data entry where there is no spell check available for an alpha numeric serial number.
In the event that devices need to be recycled due to damage or there is no commercial opportunity for them, then they must go via certified and approved recyclers within the country. These recyclers should be certified by the government of the country and the waste that they send for processing is sent legally to highly regulated facilities. By asking for the best price, you may be contributing to the pollution of a local water supply somewhere and the processing may be carried out by children who are not in any way protected from the harmful chemicals and acids which are used.
The solutions are out there, it may take some work to find the correct companies but, for the sake of your data, for the sake of your community and for the sake of the environment make the educated choice.