The Environmental Handling Fee (EHF) you’re charged every time your business buys a new printer or computer entitles you to no-charge recycling of your end-of-life electronics. But the EHF is not a guarantee of privacy. And when it comes to disposing of its electronic items, your company shares the liability – and the obligation – to protect data from falling into the wrong hands.
Know Before It Goes
The Ontario Electronic Stewardship uses EHF fees to help government-approved electronics recyclers process your unwanted office items safely, and in accordance with environmental standards. Their role includes ensuring that certified recyclers take steps to protect electronic product data from unauthorized access or theft.
Your best option when recycling office electronics is to use the services of an R2 certified company, since they’re obligated to ensure your data is secure. But if your business chooses to risk working with a non-certified recycler – it’s up to you to erase sensitive information from device memories before offering them up for recycling.
One of the biggest mistakes organizations make when disposing of end-of-life electronics is neglecting to address the sensitive data stored within them:
- passwords and usernames,
- personal and client contact information, and
- bank account and credit card numbers
Because while we understand that items like laptops and smartphones store a great deal of private information, we don’t always recognize that many photocopiers, fax machines, and audio-visual gadgets do, too!
Awareness is half the battle when it comes to protecting your company – and your customers – from data and identity theft. And that awareness begins with acknowledging the wide range of electronics that contain data, and how to effectively purge it.
Tips for Data Destruction
Consider this list of electronic devices that are routinely found in many business environments:
- Computers, laptops, tablets, and servers,
- USB drives, CDs, DVDs, and floppy disks,
- Smart TVs,
- Cell phones and e-readers,
- Credit card machines, fax machines, and photocopiers
Office electronics like these share the potential to collect and store confidential information. But because it’s often saved in different locations on a hard drive, it can sometimes be tricky to erase. Certified DoD wiping standards or physical destruction are the only methods for ensuring data is properly managed.
Before your company recycles its end-of-life electronics, take note of these tips to keep private data away from prying eyes:
- Back up the data from your old device to a new device, or to an external hard drive.
- Before attempting to eliminate your old data, check to see if the device manufacturer (or mobile provider, in the case of a cell phone) offers advice or instructions for destroying it securely.
- Be aware that simply emptying a computer’s recycling bin – or re-formatting its hard drive – is not enough to eradicate sensitive files. The only way to permanently erase data is to overwrite it with the help of specialized software. Failing to effectively wipe all the data from your hard drive leaves it vulnerable to being retrieved.
- Physically destroying your hard drives – by crushing, grinding, or shredding them – is the best method for ensuring electronics that contain data are rendered completely unrecoverable.
Remember, the only way to truly safeguard confidential data is to partner with a reputable recycler – one that’s certified to manage your data destruction needs. Fully certified companies like Quantum offer data destruction services that guarantee your sensitive information will be gone for good.