Every industry has to guarantee complete privacy to its clients; everyone’s confidentiality must be protected at all cost. The passage of time makes no difference; regardless of how much time has passed the client still has authority over who is privy to their information. Apart from it being a mere ethical concern, protection of private records is now also a law. This is easy to do when the computers are being used and functioning a hundred percent, but what about when new computers replace the old? Computers aren’t simply sent off to the scrap heap and landfills anymore, instead of that, those computers are being recycled.
Old computers are usually replaced because of higher performance demands, so in places such as banks, hospitals and other such organizations, the old computers are located to users with lesser performance demands. FNB Corp in Naples, with $7 billion-assets, does just that and John C. Klumpp, the operations and technology manager verifies it. “We take several approaches. Newer systems are generally being purchased in areas where newer technology is required to support new functionality and the older systems are moved to areas where there is no demand for new functionality.” (Jones, 2003)
Computers are sometimes even given to employees and there are several advantages to giving older computers to employees. It could bring about a certain degree of commitment and loyalty and if documented carefully it could also be used as a tax benefit. Personal computer used at homes are generally sold off or donated to charity. “According to Gartner Dataquest, about 150 used hard drives were sold via secondary sales market last year. At the same time about 200 new hard drives were shipped. That means for every 10 new hard drives that enter the market, 7 used ones will be sold off. ”
A notable national organization that people should familiarize themselves with is the National Cristina Foundation). The charity’s motto is “Machines you can write off. People you can’t. ” The Cristina group, started in 1985 by a computer expert and his daughter’s special education teacher, takes in outmoded personal computer technology, checks it out, and places it with training and educational organizations, without charge to donors or recipients.
The organization’s website, www. cristina. org, has an extensive question and answer section that covers such issues as tax benefits for donors. Retired computers pose security risks. Computers used at home contain bank statements, utility bills and even pre-approved credit card requests, such vital information if fallen into the wrong hands could lead to identity theft, computers used in the medical industry can contain credit card numbers and medical history and computers used in the finance sector could contain sensitive information which if leaked could lead to a substantial amount of loss.
If the information from these computers is simply deleted and even if the hard disk is formatted, there are still ways of retrieving privileged information. Many people believe that formatting completely deletes data from the hard disk, the reason for this range from the message that appears on the screen which states that all data from drive C will be lost to what the word format implies. The data isn’t really wiped off the hard disk; with the proper tools all the data can be recovered. The two certified ways in which information is truly removed from hard drives are disk wiping and actual physical destruction of the hard disk.
If a disk has to be wiped clean then the information should first be deleted then the disk should be overwritten with “1”, then “0” and then “1”. This ensures that the software and data is truly unrecoverable. Programs which wipe the disk clean with this method are: Disk Wipe, Eraser, Sure Delete and Norton Ghost. Physical destruction of the disk is not only very costly but also very difficult. It is only necessary when and if the level of data confidentiality required is very high. I is not acceptable to drill holes in a hard drive to physically destroy it, a popular method of physical destruction is degaussing.
All these processes require funding and while this could be a good idea for those with computers at home, it is not a very logical decision for large banks and firms. The hours, funds and staff required to do such jobs properly are more often than not, just not available. In such circumstances what is one to do? Many organizations turn to Hard Drive Sanitization Companies, such establishments not only destroy the hardware or software in the hardware completely but also issue a certificate of destruction.
“One company that chose the Hard Drive Crusher was Goodwill Southern California (GSC), which operates 46 retail stores, 39 attended donation centers, three campuses and 18 workforce/training centers in the counties of Los Angeles. The organization was worried about liabilities associated with the information stored in thousands of PCs donated to the charity each month. Goodwill wanted an environmentally friendly solution that also guaranteed data destruction. ”
The key problem with such organizations is that they have to be extremely trust-worthy, or the purpose of destroying the drives is completely pointless. They have to come recommend by someone who themselves are very reliable and banks and such other organizations hesitate in handing over hard drives with very sensitive information to complete strangers. Retired computers not only pose security risks but are great environmental risk too. “California, Massachusetts, and Minnesota have already outlawed the disposal of computer waste in landfills; in 2003 alone, 23 states initiated legislation to address the mounting problem of computer waste.” (Meller, Ella, and Young)
The nonprofit National Safety Council based in Itasca, Illinois, “estimates that 20. 6 million desktop computers became obsolete in 1998, and about a quarter were simply thrown away. These dumped electronics can pose environmental hazards”. (http://www. ehponline. org/docs/2000/108-9/forum. html) “The average CRT (the leaded glass picture tube inside the monitor or television) contains 5-8 pounds of lead. Although the updated regulations focus on CRTs, Massachusetts environmental officials expect people to recycle their entire computers.
Recycling the complete unit will eliminate further potential environmental hazards since a computer’s circuit board may contain other metals besides lead, such as cadmium. ” (Greene, 2000) Hard Drives been identified by the Environmental Protection Agency as hazardous waste as they contain this metal. “Some other states are also beginning to consider the problem of electronics dumping. In California, for example, residents of San Jose–the heart of Silicon Valley–are encouraged to dump their outdated hard drives into curbside recycling containers along with the usual plastic milk jugs and metal soup cans”.
A proper disposal plan should be made to ensure that organizations don’t find themselves in violation of the RCRA. The main tow facts to be considered when disposing computer are what state laws are in place to deal with the proper disposal of computer equipment in accordance with the Environmental Protection Agency and what are the state laws with regard to the data privacy. (29 states have environmental laws and 20 states have data privacy laws). Organizations should realize that when they store computers to be later used, they are wasting time.
Those computers will probably never be used again and in the mean time their market value will probably be diminished. So if they have selling the equipment in mind it should be done as soon as possible and if not the proper methods of recycling should be investigated. Eric Malmgren, the information systems officer for The Bank of Lancaster, ($261 million-assets) in Kilmarnock says, “The Information Systems Department has disposed of PCs from time to time. When I say “disposed of,” I mean we’ve just taken them out of circulation.
We have not actually thrown them in a dumpster. They are stored at my location until I find a recycler to take them so they don’t wind up in a landfill. ” (Jones, 2003) Some recyclers are very environment conscience, they pass the drives through shredders exposing it to very powerful permanent magnets, and then the particles are collected after each shredding. They are weighed and place in large plastic recycling containers, which are then sealed and transferred to metal refineries for smelting, base metal recovery and such.