Wipe, Don’t Smash

In today’s world, security of personal information is a serious topic. Extensive measures are taken in many parts of everyday life to ensure your identifying information is not accidentally exposed. One area that many do not consider is in recycling or disposing of older computers. Obsolescence is a serious issue with technology. Advancements in computers and phones means that they can continually improve, becoming faster, smaller, and better each year. Upgrading to a newer system or phone is a no-brainer, but leaves you with the issue of an older system that is still functional and full of personal information. Credit card numbers, social security numbers, bank codes, driver’s licenses, personal pictures, all of which can be used in unsavory ways. But how to dispose of this information?

Some choose to physically destroy the hard drive. It seems the easiest option- a few minutes with a hammer, and the storage for a computer is destroyed. The problem is then the parts and fragments go into the trash. Some estimates claim that electronic waste is about 1% of the landfills in the Australia, but it also accounts for 70% of the toxins. Electronic waste is filled with toxins and dangerous materials for the environment. Conversely, the materials can be recycled into new component parts like any recyclable material. While better for the environment, we are still left with the issue of data security. Short of physically destroying the material, how do you keep your information safe?

The only way to be certain that your information is destroyed without causing more damage than good is called ghosting or wiping. Beyond simply formatting your drive, it is a set of standards for both personal and professional data destruction. The process rewrites randomized series of information over the current data. Doing so corrupts the information beyond repair, permanently eliminating the use of that file or drive. The U.S. Department of Defense standards says this must be done three times to the same drive. Each pass destroying a fragment more information. Once would render the data unreadable. Thrice ensures that it cannot be recovered by any current means. The process renders the drive completely unreadable, and ready to be reformatted or have its components reassigned to newer uses without risking your personal information. If you are unable to perform the process, finding either a site or a program that will do it for you is neither hard nor too expensive. As a part of computer and electronic recycling, it is a far better choice than adding to the toxic nature of landfills.

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