E-Waste and Data Security: A Growing Problem That’s Only Getting Worse

e-waste data security

Imagine you own a treasure chest, and you’ve placed your most valuable possessions inside it. You feel confident they’re safe because you’ve got a sturdy lock on the chest.

The problem is, all a thief needs to do is figure out how to pick open the lock, and everything you have is theirs.
These days, a lot of our prized possessions are not material objects but come in the form of electronic data on our laptops and smart phones. In this digital age, we routinely store everything from our bank account information to our medical records, credit card numbers and a host of other highly sensitive data on those devices.

We appreciate the convenience of conducting business online – making purchases with a credit card, depositing or withdrawing money from our banks, paying our health care premium and updating our personal information. All of it gets stored on our electronic devices.

And, like the proverbial treasure chest with the lock on it, all an identity thief needs to do is figure out how to pick that lock.

What Does Data Security Refer To?

Data security is an important and ongoing concern, but it’s taken on even greater importance recently for another reason: e-waste.

As technology keeps improving what our cell phones, laptops, home computers and other devices can do, there’s been a rush to replace older, outdated versions with the ones offering the most sophisticated new technological advances. That means their old devices are being tossed aside, even thrown out with their trash.

Your Device Still Has Residual Data

And what far too many electronics users fail to recognize is the enormous risk they’re taking by doing that, since their personal information remains on that device even if it’s no longer in use — and even if they think they’ve deleted it and sent it to the Recycle Bin.

Most people are not aware of how hard it is to completely erase data from a computer’s hard drive. If hard drives are not properly destroyed, hackers still have ready access to your personal information, including your passwords or credit card numbers.

E-Waste and Data Security Go Hand-In-Hand

That’s why it’s so important to recycle – but not on your laptop’s Recycle Bin. When your computer, laptop or cell phone is no longer functioning properly, it’s important to take them to an experienced recycling firm like Great Lakes Electronics Corporation, where the staff is made up of trained security experts who can truly wipe your device clean of all sensitive personal information.

What Happens to Data When Devices Stop Working?

The Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station recently hosted a special program: a free “Safe and Secure Collection Event” that allowed residents to dispose of sensitive documents and electronic devices in a safe, secure manner.
The sheriff’s office staff in this Southern California community was on hand to help residents dispose of everything from expired credit carts and computer disks to electronic devices like hard drives and laptops.

Their goal was also educational: to remind people that old computers and mobile phones should always be recycled, because they’re a goldmine of personal data to any criminals who discover them in the trash. For the PC’s original owners, treating it like trash can be an open invitation to identify theft specialists to have a field day.

And the sheriff’s office, like other municipal agencies, want to get that message across to owners of electronics devices, particularly at a time when people are replacing their devices faster than ever. The amount of e-waste worldwide is skyrocketing.

Hard drives are easy to salvage, then can be sold to organized criminals who know how to unlock the barriers preventing access to the data on the drives.

Not surprisingly, states like New York have banned e-waste from going into landfills, with data security among the concerns.

Even your cracked iPhone has quite a bit about the private details of your life stored on it. And dumpster-diving thieves love the data you’re leaving behind.

There was even a report out of Reno, Nevada that identity thieves had run a fake Craigslist ad claiming to be offering free e-waste recycling, that was actually using it to scam people out of their electronic data. Criminals are well aware of how many treasures are on your devices.

And even if you’ve deleted everything off your unwanted gadgets and wiped your drives, savvy hackers know how to recover lost data, and there are even software programs designed to extract data from deleted files.

That’s why professional recycling firms will not only dissemble your old devices so that the parts with value can be reused, they’re also your security experts who can ensure that if you’ve left anything behind on those devices, it won’t stay there.

Are Businesses Vulnerable as Well?

It’s not just the individual owners of e-waste who are in danger of handing their personal information over to data thieves. Businesses that frequently replace company laptops, personal computers and office cell phones are vulnerable as well if they treat that equipment as trash.

In 2006, Idaho Power Company got rid of a host of company hard drives without wiping them clean, and later found out that sensitive corporate data had ended up on eBay, where hundreds of their old drives were being sold online. Contained on those drives was confidential employee information and proprietary memos.

And as any business knows, if outdated devices or disks contains personal information about clients or employees gets into the wrong hands, that opens up a massive financial and legal nightmare for the firm.

For businesses that often find it necessary to dispose of aging electronics, whether it’s old computers, monitors, printers or cellphones, taking these obsolete electronics out to the curb is no longer an option.

And while some companies may try to destroy their data in-house, it’s better to hire professionals with the skills and specialized equipment needed to eradicate data and destroy hard drives.

The bottom line is that the e-waste challenge is here to stay, and has become a part of doing business for companies large and small. What companies need to invest in is a failsafe system for protecting its reputation, sensitive company data, information about their workers, and the identity of its customers. Because any business that has become connected opens itself up to the risk of a security breach.


E-waste presents a serious security threat to individuals and businesses. Data erasure is the strongest way to fight back, but most individuals and companies have no idea how to go about it.

The solution is to turn those devices over to an experienced firm like Great Lakes Electronics Corporation, which has years of experience performing environmentally friendly recycling of electronic products.

The team at Great Lakes will disassemble these items into component parts, and the ones that still have value can be sold for reuse. Other parts are used for metals recovery. Everything within your devices gets recycled.

More importantly, they’re your data security experts. By recycling with Great Lakes Electronics, you won’t have to worry about the data you left behind on those hard drives. Great Lakes offers complete data destruction of all drives with their in-house data elimination processes. Great Lakes Electronics provides the secure destruction of personal, sensitive, proprietary, or classified information, and they issue Certificates of Destruction and Certificates of Data Sanitization upon request.

To learn more, contact Great Lakes Electronics at 888-392-7831 today.