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Where does your data go to die?

By Eli Sabatier

When it comes to IT security and data resiliency, the first thing that jumps to most people’s minds is the quintessential hooded hacker, peering over a laptop plotting the next big data heist. And though that is always going to be an issue, the fact remains that cyber resilience goes far beyond that of malware and bad links. 

Conversely, one of the last things people think of is that old piece of IT gear that’s being sent off to pasture. Beyond the simple unplugging and dropping it in a recycling bin, the sensitive data it contains must be dealt with in a manner that is secure—ensuring that it is wiped from existence and not seen by prying and curious eyes. 

To put this into a more tangible (and very scary) light, since 2013, there have been more than 3,800,000 records stolen through breaches every day. Not scary enough? That translates to more than 158,500 per hour, and more than 2,600 per minute (Brooks, n.d.).  And in case you want more math, approximately 44 every second of every day.  To add to the mix, in 2018 alone the number of breached patient records tripled to more than 15,000,000. This is the world that we now all have to live in. 

So, what do we as a global society do? Faced with these threats, organizations must not only maximize the IT asset value recovered while minimizing the risks associated with data-bearing, end-of-life (EOL) equipment, but they must also be fully compliant with stringent regulatory standards for data security.

Adopting a data-centric security approach—an approach that emphasizes the security of the data itself rather than the security of networks, servers, or applications—the focus is on protecting the data, rather than on protecting the system where the data resides. When the focus is on protecting the system, it does not protect the data when it is moved elsewhere. The system remains protected, but sensitive data is left unprotected, exposed, and vulnerable to a cyber attack.

The first step in the data-centric approach is to automatically identify sensitive data as soon as it enters the organization’s IT ecosystem. It should then be secured with policy-based protection that is with the data throughout its lifecycle. A common practice is to install software agents on every IT asset where sensitive data resides such as laptops, servers, mobile devices, and more. Administrators control these agents from a centralized management console, applying the right type of protection for each data type and use case (PKWARE, n.d.).

This approach ensures that sensitive data is protected. In addition, when using the services of an IT asset recovery and recycling company, make sure it has the right attributes to effectively and safely dispose of your old IT hardware. 

First and foremost, this should include Secure Data Destruction. Make sure that sensitive data is wiped clean in accordance with the United States Department of Defense sanitization guidelines. Furthermore, make sure the company has ISO Certification, which ensures that the service provider delivers consistent, high-quality products and services.

When it comes to disposal, know where your old assets go to die. A good way to ensure that assets are disposed of appropriately is to partner with a single R2-Certified Recycling Company. R2 is the premier global environmental, worker health and safety standard for the electronics refurbishing and recycling industry. It includes secure data destruction and a zero-landfill policy for users’ parts. The service provider should send the organization a report from its R2-certified recycler on the final disposition of the asset.

And lastly, know where the final resting place is for the parts of the assets. Having a partner who has a landfill and Exportation Policy is a big help. This ensures that assets are not disposed of in a landfill site or in another country. Whether for resale or disposal, the service provider does not export to embargoed countries, adhering to the US Electronic Code of Federal Regulations.

Overall, the right service provider should deliver a multitude of benefits such as costs offset through remarketing and recycling, clients’ sensitive data protected, reduced costs through the redeployment of assets, and the enhancement of brand reputation through corporate sustainability activities.

A data-centric security approach together with a service provider who has the above attributes, minimizes the risks associated with data-bearing, end-of-life (EOL) equipment, as well as being in full compliance with regulations that require businesses to undertake proper retirement and recycling of their electronic IT assets.

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