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Recycle Electronics – But Protect Your Personal Data

When speaking of Electronics Recycling, the question of data security is not far behind.  Awareness and vigilance are your best friends when it comes to keeping your personal information safe.  Here are some ways to protect yourself:

Disposing of Old Computers:

Simply deleting files, emptying the Recycling Bin or even reformatting the hard drive won’t do the trick:  Even after all these measures, files can still be accessed and reconstructed by computer-savvy people.  And identity thieves are smart.

After downloading all the files you’d like to keep to a CD, USB Flash Drive or a different computer, consider purchasing or downloading a special software program.  Different options are available:  Some clear the entire hard drive, others allow you to select files you wish to keep.  Some wipe the hard drive once, others overwrite it multiple times.  As a rule of thumb, consider using a program that wipes the hard drive multiple times to ensure that date cannot be retrieved.

Another option is to remove your hard drive and physically destroy it by drilling holes into it.

Many certified electronics recyclers provide Certificates of Destruction for a small fee.  This is especially important for businesses and organizations who handle sensitive customer information.

Disposing of old Cell Phones:

If you consider recycling or donating your cell phone, here is what you need to do:

* Terminate the account service – or the recipient will be able to make phone calls while you are paying the bill.  Confirm with your carrier, and check your bill carefully.

* Delete all of your stored information, including contacts, messages, e-mails, or incoming, outgoing and missed calls.  Check your phone’s manual and follow instructions to do a factory reset.

* The US Environmental Protection Agency recommends the use of special data erasing tools that can be obtained on the internet, such as the Recellular Data Eraser Tool.

* Remove your SIM card and shred it or cut it in half.  For assistance, please contact your service provider or your phone’s manufacturer.

Disposing of old Photocopiers:

Be aware that almost every photocopier built since 2002, especially the high-end machines found in copy shops and those that combine scanning, printing and faxing, contains a hard drive.

While the hard drive is necessary for the speedy processing of jobs, it also automatically stores the data of every page the machine ever photocopied. The problem: If machines are retired without their hard drives thoroughly cleaned, the data they hold may be available to whomever gets their hands on it.

Depending on what you (or your acccountant, employer or doctor) photocopied, your personal information may be jeopardized.  Before using a public or employer’s photocopier, ask whether it contains a hard drive, and what the provider’s security policy is.  In case of doubt, invest in a personal printer/scanner/copier and be sure to clean its hard drive thoroughly according to manufacturer’s directions before retiring the machine.



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