Like so much else in the 21st century, the recycling process relies heavily on data security. But why exactly is that the case?
Data security is a phrase that most of us will be familiar with, both in a personal and commercial sense. It’s an unavoidable fact that we, as individuals, store huge amounts of personal data online, and that businesses also hold plenty of information for various reasons.
Most people are well aware of what they should do to keep their data secure – or the data of their customers if they’re acting on behalf of an organisation. However, what some end up neglecting is the fact that the recycling process relies heavily on sound data security policies.
But why is the recycling process so heavily dependent on data security for it to be successful? And can a businesses be liable to commit a breach of the data protection act if they don’t recycle devices while following a data security policy? We’ll be answering those questions and more in the following post…
Why is the Recycling Process so Dependent on Data Security?
All Devices Have ‘Residual Data’
Firstly, it’s important to note that all devices have what’s known as residual data (sometimes referred to as ambient data). This is data which is not actively used on a computer system, but can still be accessed using special data recovery tools.
This means that personal information can remain on devices even if it is no longer in use and even if someone believes that they have deleted information by sending it to the (digital) recycling bin.
What we often fail to realise is that completely removing data from a device’s hard drive is very difficult. The reality is that, if a hard drive isn’t properly destroyed, hackers could still have easy access to your information if they intervene before a device is properly recycled.
In some cases, if someone was dedicated enough, they may be able to retrieve data from a shredded hard drive, as there are often ways of being able to rebuild data from the shredded pieced left behind. Whilst this isn’t very common, it remains a possibility, especially if someone has sufficient motive to do so.
Electronics are Among the Most Common Stolen Commodities
When it comes to cargo that is in transit, electronics are among the top six commodities which end up being stolen. This means, when individuals and companies send off their devices to be recycling, they need to be confident that every possible data security measure has been followed to reduce the potential for a data breach occurring.
Electronic recyclers have also had to consider what steps they need to take to ensure that equipment returns to their facilities safely, as well as what they can do to maintain the security of the equipment when it arrives on site and is ready to be processed.
The Cost of a Data Breach Can Be Astronomical
This should go without saying – private data is precious. This means that the cost of a data breach caused by poor security measures prior to recycling can be absolutely huge, especially if it involves the personal data of more than one person.
Of course, there is the risk that a data breach can directly lead to financial information, such as bank account details, being leaked.
However, victims of data breaches are usually entitled to make a claim for compensation, even if they did not suffer direct financial loss. This means that, if their data is exposed by a business who did not take appropriate measures during recycling, they could be entitled to a huge sum. Multiply that figure if there are several victims, and a business could have a real problem on its hands.
Tips for Securing Data Before Recycling
Invest in Cloud Solutions
Not everything has to be stored on physical hard drives. So, if you have files which you need to keep secure, or your businesses has concerns about them falling into the wrong hands, you should consider investing in cloud storage solutions.
This, of course, would remove the need for physical hard drives to be destroyed which, as we’ve discussed, can be very difficult to do effectively.
Use Factory Resets
As we’ve mentioned, simply moving files and data into the trash can doesn’t really achieve much in terms of data security. So, to make sure that devices are completely clean of any sensitive data, it’s a good idea to make the most of factory or ‘hard’ resets.
This will revert a device back to its original state and essentially overwrite anything that has previously been saved, making it much more suitable for recycling when the time comes.
Separate Hard Drives for Recycling
For many devices, such as smartphones and smaller laptops, it may not be possible to remove the hard drive – at least not easily. However, for larger devices, you should try to remove the hard drive wherever possible, as this helps to make the destruction and recycling process much more efficient.
Create and Follow a Data Security and Disposal Policy
If you are concerned about the consequences of data security and recycling for your business, it is essential that you create and follow a data security and disposal policy. This will help to ensure that every employee at your business is on the same page when it comes to actions that need to be taken, and best practice that should be followed.
Have You Got Any Other Questions About Data Security and Recycling?
In this post, we’ve discussed the importance of data security and recycling, as well as detailing some of the ways you can ensure your devices are secure before they are sent to be recycled.
Have you got any other questions regarding data security and recycling? If so, feel free to leave them in the comments below!
Please be advised that this article is for general informational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for advice from a trained data breach professional. Be sure to consult a data breach professional or the ICO if you’re seeking advice about securing data before recycling. We are not liable for risks or issues associated with using or acting upon the information on this site.