Electronic waste or e-waste is electronics that are nearing the end of their use and are discarded, donated, or recycled. While donating and recycling electronic devices is better for the environment, the data in these devices can still be easily accessed and retrieved even after deletion. This information could be financial data such as account numbers or tax returns, or personal information like email messages or photos. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, more people in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex are working from home than ever before, which means a higher rate of electronics turnover. How can you protect your confidential information when discarding a device?
Risks of disposing e-waste
Personal computers have a lot of sensitive information on them which can be accessed and used for criminal activity. According to Get Safe Online, any passwords stored in the computer could give access to secure websites holding the personal and financial information of the device's owner. Likewise, any browsing history and emails stored in the computer can be accessed.
Backing up data
Before disposing of the computer, one should think about what information to save and how much storage space is needed to save that information. Data deemed important can either be transferred to a new computer, in another device, in a USB flash drive/external hard drive, or on the cloud storage. This way, the data can be recovered even if the information is accidentally erased.
Sign out accounts and disconnect devices
After saving all of the important information,it’s important to sign out of all online accounts. Also, un-pair your devices from Bluetooth devices like a mouse, keyboard, or wireless display. Make sure that any CDs or DVDs that contain personal data are removed from the computer.
Deleting data and erasing the computer's hard drive
When deleting files, it is not enough to rely solely on the routinely used deletion method such as moving a file to the trash or recycle bin or selecting "delete" from the menu. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) shared that although the files may appear to have been removed, data remains on the media even after a delete or format command is executed.
Remove data from the computer through a disk software designed to permanently remove data stored on a computer hard drive to prevent the possibility of recovery. Select a program that runs the secure erase command set, which will erase the data by overwriting all areas of the hard drive; or use disk wiping to erase sensitive information on hard drives and securely wipes flash drives and secure digital cards.
Delete sensitive information and write new binary data over it, the CISA suggested. Using random data instead of easily identifiable patterns makes it harder for attackers to discover the original information underneath. One method of overwriting is to zero-fill a hard disk and select programs that use all zeros in the last layer. The owner of the data may use the Cipher.exe, a built-in command-line tool in Microsoft Windows operating systems that can be used to encrypt or decrypt data on New Technology File System drives.
This tool can also securely delete data by overwriting it. Clearing can also be used to prevent the information from being retrieved by data, disk, or file recovery utilities. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) notes that devices must be resistant to keystroke recovery attempts from standard input devices, such as keyboard or mouse, and from data scavenging tools.
Another method to prevent other people from retrieving information is to destroy the device. There are specialized services available that will securely destroy the computer drive and other devices. Each drive can be made inoperable using powerful, patented equipment tested and approved by National Security Agency and Department of Defense. Reverse polarity technology permanently removes all data from drive.
If a person does not want to use any of the services, hard drives can be destroyed manually, according to CISA. However, care should be taken to ensure that the remaining physical pieces are small enough that the information cannot be reconstructed from them. Hardware devices can also be used to erase CDs and DVDs. It can be through magnetic media degaussers, wherein devices are exposed to strong magnetic fields that remove the data; solid-state destruction, the destruction of all data storage chip memory by crushing, shredding or disintegration; and using office or home paper shredders to shred CDs and DVDs.
Computers that are at the end of their life or are not intended for selling or giving away should be taken to a proper disposal facility. The facility will ensure that the computers are dismantled and the components recycled correctly and responsibly. Most computers contain hazardous materials such as heavy metals that can contaminate the environment. The Federal Trade Commission suggests looking for computer manufacturers, electronic stores, and other organizations that have computer recycling or donation programs.
Jamie Spence | Content Manager
Seota Digital Marketing 972.737.2830