Feeds

Local councils dish out shoddy computer recycling advice

Delete data properly

High performance access to file storage

People looking to recycle old computer kit are being given confusing advice by local councils that could lead to identity theft, a consumer group has warned.

Which? Computing magazine telephoned more than 100 councils across the UK asking for information on how to safely recycle defunct computers and monitors.

Only two fifths of them were able to provide concrete assurance that equipment would be recycled. A sizeable number gave questionable advice, while one in seven had no idea what would happen to donated PCs.

"They literally go into the landfill; they get smashed apart," one council worker told the magazine. Many also failed to point out the importance of individuals erasing data from their computers before handing them over to be recycled.

One council worker advised: "You can easily uninstall any information," while another said that leaving personal data on a donated PC "shouldn't be a problem".

The magazine's editor, Sarah Kidner, said: "Our investigation shows the quality of advice and availability of services vary from one council to the next.

"Perhaps more worrying is the lack of knowledge and advice on how to dispose of the data stored on your computer. This could mean that the local tip becomes a hunting ground for identity thieves."

A number of factors have led to an upsurge of interest in people wanting to recycle old computer kit, including growing awareness around environmental issues, as well as the recent introduction in the UK of the Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment (WEEE) directive.

Just last week Computer Aid International, a charity that sends equipment donated from UK businesses to developing communities around the world, kicked off an ambitious appeal to bring in 50,000 PC and laptop donations in 2008.

Computer Aid International's PC donations manager Anja Ffrench told The Register that people need to be clear that data stored on their hard drive has been deleted irreversibly.

She added that the person making the donation should also be provided with proof that data has been successfully destroyed, and finally that they can track where their computer ends up.

"There is a lot of confusion about how to completely remove all sensitive personal data from the hard drive, and what people need to understand is that simply hitting delete is not enough," she said.

Ffrench said the charity was confident that donated machines it receives go through a "rigorous refurbishment process" to prevent personal data stored on PCs being stolen.

The service Computer Aid International offers includes a free guide on WEEE compliance as well as a reporting system that tracks when each computer's data was wiped. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
This time it's 'Personal': new Office 365 sub covers just two devices
Redmond also brings Office into Google's back yard
European Court of Justice rips up Data Retention Directive
Rules 'interfering' measure to be 'invalid'
Dropbox defends fantastically badly timed Condoleezza Rice appointment
'Nothing is going to change with Dr. Rice's appointment,' file sharer promises
Bored with trading oil and gold? Why not flog some CLOUD servers?
Chicago Mercantile Exchange plans cloud spot exchange
Just what could be inside Dropbox's new 'Home For Life'?
Biz apps, messaging, photos, email, more storage – sorry, did you think there would be cake?
IT bods: How long does it take YOU to train up on new tech?
I'll leave my arrays to do the hard work, if you don't mind
Amazon reveals its Google-killing 'R3' server instances
A mega-memory instance that never forgets
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.