For companies in today’s marketplace – large or small – it’s standard practice to store the majority of files digitally, whether on laptops, desktops, servers, mobile phones, USB drives, hard drives, DVDs or more. Not only does this increase the efficiency and speed of organising valuable information for later use, but it makes for less and less paper waste over time, freeing up physical space in the office simultaneously.

Most companies (and individuals) don’t realise, however, just how vulnerable they may become when disposing of sensitive material often stored on these digital media devices.

Have you ever tossed an old mobile phone, USB drive or hard drive after completing a simple deletion of your files, only to assume that the information either was of no use to anyone else, or was no longer accessible? Chances are you have, and you’d be surprised just how much information can be leaked from these devices, and what it could mean for the safety and security of yourself, your business, and your employees.

Destroying Your Digital Media: Common Dangers

Identity Theft

First off, you should know that the only way to properly dispose of electronic devices is to completely dismantle and destroy them. Recycling, reformatting, reselling or throwing them in the waste bin can put you at risk for identity theft, no matter how many sensitive files you think you have deleted or hidden properly.

Using simple software, hackers can easily restore deleted information stored on electronic devices, such as banking information, personal and professional emails, client account files, medical files, photographs, accounting information, password information, legal documents, tax records and more.

Identity theft on a professional level could mean serious security breaches for your business, and even put all of your employees and clients at risk in the case of sensitive information becoming public knowledge. To sum up, it’s not a risk you want to take.

Legal Repercussions

In 1988, the Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act was passed in Australia, requiring businesses to destroy sensitive information rather than discarding it. Taken a step further, organisations and individuals can even leave themselves open to litigation upon findings of improper document disposal, such as personal records they no longer require being tossed into the nearest trash bin.

Imagine being slapped with the maximum penalty for a data breach – currently $340,000 for individuals and $1,700,000 for private organisations and government agencies – could you afford that? 

Environmental Effects

According to a study by Australia’s Right Now Magazine, electronic waste, or e-waste, “is the largest and fastest growing waste stream in the world.” When computers are tossed in the general waste bin, for example, toxic lead from computer parts has the potential to contaminate water, soil, and eventually even our own food supply.

In addition, Australian companies have been found incorrectly labelling their old electronic equipment as ‘second-hand goods’ in order to avoid paying to dispose of their e-waste items properly. Often times, this leads to illegal dumping of waste in less developed countries, leading to further environmental waste and contamination.

This hasn’t been the only instance of illegal dumping, however. In 2011, a well known organisation agreed to pay $22.5 million for the disposal of hazardous waste across stores in California, and another agreed to pay $52 million in 2014 for a similar practice that spanned nearly a decade.

At Shred-X, we provide scanning and recording of serial numbers prior to destroying your e-waste, and always provide a Certificate of Destruction for your records. For document destruction, we transport the shredded products to a processing facility, allowing it to be recycled into future products in an environmentally-conscious, sustainable way.

While we don’t intend to scare you with this information, disposing of e-waste in an improper manner poses a very realistic threat to the safety and security of your identity, and the future of your business. We are always here to help with providing a tailored destruction service for your business, so don’t hesitate to contact us for more information or a private consultation!

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