While IT staffs across the judiciary make sure anything issued to you at work is safely disposed, you should take similar precautions to protect your own devices. Here are four “must do” tips to get you started:
Tip #1: Destroy your data
Unfortunately, there’s no rule that says your data is safe just because you’ve disposed of your equipment. Its next owner—a passerby who picked it out of your trash can or, maybe, a smart hacker who culled it from a landfill—might put your information to a nefarious use. Think you are safe because your computer requires a password when turned on? Think again. Even though you took precautions by password protecting access to your computer, those knowledgeable of hacking techniques can still retrieve this information. So, before you get rid of your device, take the time to securely delete your data. The tips below will help.
Tip #2: Return your smartphone or other mobile device to its factory settings
Erasing data from a smartphone is easy—simply perform a “factory reset” using instructions for your particular phone. If you don’t have these on hand, they can be found by navigating to your manufacturer’s website and searching for your model-specific instructions. Smartphones store your information in a small memory chip called a Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card. If you’re exchanging your old phone for a new one, you’ll probably transfer your old SIM card to the new device. But if you don’t, be sure to destroy it—shredding is a good option.
Tip #3: Use special software to clean your desktops and laptops
Simply deleting your files (and even emptying the Recycling Bin) is not enough—you need to overwrite sensitive data to prevent it from being recovered. Fortunately, there are a lot of software programs available to help you. The right one can be found by performing a simple Internet search for your device. Better yet, physically remove and then destroy (yes, use a hammer if you’d like) the hard drive on which your sensitive data was stored.
Tip #4: Be mindful of the environment when recycling
Computers and associated devices (such as printers and monitors) contain toxic elements, such as lead and mercury, which are harmful to the environment. Rather than simply throwing them away with other household waste, take advantage of information published by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for their disposal. Using safe recycling programs will both get rid of your devices and preserve the health of our communities.
Note: For government-issued equipment, IT staffs are advised to consult the Guide to Judiciary Policy, § 550 Disposal of IT Equipment . Contact your local IT staff with any questions you may have with securely disposing of your IT equipment.
1Deloitte: Used smartphones: the $17 billion market you may never have heard of
2Gizmodo: How to stop data thieves from stealing information off your old gadgets
3The SIM card contains the user’s personal contact information and is communicated back to the carrier.
4PC World: How to securely erase your hard drive