End-of-Life Electronic Devices

Individuals and businesses both need to dispose of end-of-life electronic devices when they are no longer fit for purpose. The temptation may well be to dump them in the garbage if they have no residual value, and that might work for an individual (although it is still irresponsible), but companies have other things to consider. There are inherent dangers in dumping data devices, for both the company and the environment.

The first, and most obvious problem is that old electronic devices often contain sensitive data, even after discs have been wiped clean and overwritten. Unless the device is completely sanitized and/or physically destroyed, data can be restored using sophisticated forensic techniques. While this would not be economically viable to steal an individual’s personal identifiable information (PII), for a multi-million dollar company, the disclosure of financial records, customer databases, or personnel files, presents a very real risk and justifies the expense of proper disposal.

Unfortunately, criminals know that many companies are irresponsible in handling e-waste and they scour landfills for data storage devices and are then able to recover confidential data. This is sold or passed on to be used in identity theft or for corporate blackmail and ransom demands.

It is clear that customer accounts could contain information about payment methods, including credit card numbers, expiry dates, and security codes. This would represent a gold mine for people engaged in identity theft and the information stolen in this way can be sold on the dark web, allowing unscrupulous purchasers to empty someone’s bank account before they even know that their data has been compromised and stolen.

Cost of a Data Breach

It might seem that it is a lot of trouble to securely dispose of end-of-life electronic devices, but the cost of not doing so far outweighs any inconvenience or expense involved. A study by IBM and Ponemon, conducted with 3,600 interviews with companies who had suffered a data breach (550 of them across 17 countries and 17 industries) found that the average cost of the breach was $4.5 million globally and $9.44 million in the USA. These costs are primarily from litigation initiated by customers filing data breach lawsuits and winning substantial settlements.

The news for healthcare companies was even worse; their average cost of a breach has gone up 42% since 2020 and for the 12th year in a row, they had the highest average data breach cost of any industry at $10.10 million.

The study also found that for 83% of companies, the question was not if they would experience a data breach, but when.

One way to limit the risk of a data breach is to ensure that end-of-life electronic devices are disposed of responsibly, preferably by an accredited electronics recycling company, such as Potomac eCycle.

E-waste and the Environment

The second effect of improper disposal of end-of-life electronics is the damage caused to the environment.

E-waste contains many hazardous and toxic materials that, unless handled carefully will end up in landfills where they will pollute the soil and groundwater, and eventually release noxious vapors into the air.

If the same devices are disposed of by a professional recycling company, they will take the hard drives, data storage devices, server racks, etc., and destroy all data beyond any possibility of it being recovered. They will then break down the parts to salvage any that are of value, and save metals for reuse in manufacture, before consigning the minimal amount that is left safely to a landfill.

Recycle with Confidence

For peace of mind, the only way to be sure you are protected from the possibility of data breach by recovery of information from old equipment is by recycling it with a trusted, accredited IT asset management company, operating to the R2 best management practices. R2 is the leading standard for electronics repair and recycling and companies adopting this standard are rigorously audited to make certain that they are maintaining best practices in recycling electronics.

Potomac eCycle can help you manage your IT Asset Disposal: we can arrange to pick up your old electronics, inventory them (to provide a documented chain of custody), destroy all data, and provide a data destruction certificate to prove compliance. We will then arrange for the secure disposal of the equipment.

To learn more about how we can help, request a quote online, or contact us for more details.

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