As we gear up for Earth Day, you may be wondering how it has anything to do with cybersecurity – however, our environmental impact is tied to many aspects of the technology field. From proper disposal of our technologically devices to safe environmental use and evaluating the environmental impact of development and use of such devices, there is a constantly growing need to take sustainability into account when it comes to the field. This being the case, Earth Month is a crucial time for industry experts and beyond to highlight the growing E-Waste problem, which not only impacts the environment, but it also zeroes in on an important aspect of cybersecurity: Data Security.

Think about this: Your company is all set to receive and set up new devices. Once set up, these new computers are secure and follow all security regulations; all that’s left to do is to dispose of the old ones – What does that process entail? Is the company securing data even after the device has been discarded?

Discarding Electronic Devices: What to Do First
Before discarding any electronic device, it is crucial to ensure that all data is securely wiped clean. This includes more than simply logging out or removing your account from a device. In fact, as many professionals are aware, data wiping software is key in the destruction of sensitive information. Though software and other technology are able to wipe a great deal of sensitive information, one must also remember that it is almost impossible to completely erase data without taking extreme measures. In some cases, physical methods may be the best way to permanently erase sensitive data from discarded material.

Can threat actors really access wiped information?
Once data has been wiped from a system, there are methods that cyber criminals can utilize to access it. In general, these methods can be beneficial when it comes to accidental erasure, but in the hands of threat actors, they can cause immense damage.

Methods include:

  • Data recovery on storage devices
  • Cloud storage backups
  • SSDs (Solid State Drives)

Regardless of how you are securing and deleting your data, there are often vulnerabilities that threat actors can explore that can potentially impact the security of your data. In the case that your company is disposing of technology, take a moment to review how you are deleting data and securing devices. Is there a procedure in place? Has your cybersecurity team reviewed the procedure and worked with you to find any insecurities? What is your incident response plan in case threat actors are able to access your data?

Mitigating Risk: What can you do to thwart threat actors?

When a company answers the above questions, the solutions often surround what can be done to mitigate the risk that disposing of technology brings. Whether these are tactics that your company already uses, or this information is new, it is important that every company reviews procedures with a team of cybersecurity experts.

Manners in which you can mitigate risk include:

  • Utilizing secure deletion methods that overwrite data with random patterns.
  • Encrypt your drives.
  • Wipe all discarded devices.

It is important to remember that data can linger on devices long after it has been deleted. Ensuring that your company has stringent cybersecurity measures in place before disposing of technology is key in mitigating risk.

Let’s talk about Disposal

After your data has been properly deleted and company information is secure, companies should always dispose of technology in the most environmentally efficient manner possible. E-waste and pollution puts toxic materials back into the environment and landfills as society consistently upgrades devices to receive the best benefits. In fact, responsible disposal isn’t just about how you erase data, instead it also surrounds supporting the longevity of our earth and the potential to recycle material when possible. There are certified centers that process these materials as donations in order to reduce the amount of waste we see entering the environment; donating functional electronics for repurposing is a great way to reduce the footprint that discarded electronics have.

Where does this leave your company?

As a whole, securing your data is not as simple as clicking delete – making sure that your secure data stays secure is a challenge that many companies face when it comes to the disposal of electronics. The vulnerabilities that improperly disposed devices pose have the potential to gravely damage even the largest company. If a threat actor is able to access your secure data by hacking into old devices, the keys to the company may be at their fingertips – company secrets, passwords, and in the worst cases, payment information, employee and customer data, and secure logistics information.

In addition to the dangers of unsecured data, we must also be aware of the environmental impact of electronic waste. Our environment is the responsibility of all who live here, meaning we must all do what we can to reduce the footprint that technological waste has. Whether this means internally recycling old devices, working with an official recycling company to reuse old components, or even ensuring your procedures are as environmentally conscious as possible, we are working together to create a better environment for future generations to come.

This month, take time to review your environmental footprint and your procedures for technology disposal. Working with a team of cybersecurity experts can help you and your company ensure that your procedures are as foolproof as possible, thoroughly keeping your company secure. It is important to remember, though, that there is no way to completely eliminate cyber threat, and that holistic cybersecurity is the best path to keeping your company safe. Simply ensuring safe data disposal is not enough–having a secure environment, a reliable incident response plan, and up-to-date cyber security procedures are key components in thwarting cyber threat.