Feeds

Defense-contract discs sold in African market for $40

Northrop Grumman and Pentagon data dumped

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

Dumped hard drives with US defense data have turned up for open sale in a West African market.

A team of Canadian journalism students bought a hard drive containing information on multi-million dollar contracts between military contractor Northrop Grumman and the Pentagon for just $40 in a market near Accra, Ghana. The exercise was part of shooting a documentary on e-waste by Vancouver journalism students, researching what happens to the West's discarded and donated electronics.

"You'd think a security contractor that constantly deals with very secret proprietary information would probably want to wipe their drives," Blake Sifton, one of the three graduate journalism students told CBC. The team bought seven hard drives at a market in the port of Tema, a major point of entry for electronic waste from Europe and North America into Africa.

Northrop Grumman is reported to be investigating how an unencrypted hard drive containing sensitive data on the firm ended up on an African market, in violation of its established kit disposal procedures.

"Based on the documents we were shown, we believe this hard drive may have been stolen after one of our asset-disposal vendors took possession of the unit," Northrop Grumman told CBC.

A documentary of the students' research, Ghana: Digital Dumping Ground, aired in the PBS program Frontline/World on Tuesday. The disposal of electronic waste is controlled by European and US regulations but spare - often broken - kit often finds its way to Africa and other regions of the developing world where it is dumped. Cannibalized parts end up on markets while the rest of the kit is piled together and burned.

Sifton recalled seeing seven fires spewing "black, sticky, acrid smoke" at one Ghanian dump. "The ground is just scorched absolutely everywhere. Everywhere you walk, there's shards of plastic and metal and glass protruding from the ground."

The fires are used to extract scrap metal, valued at just 50 cents a kilogram, which locals use to scratch out a meager existence. It's the effect on the local environment and people of the West's throw-away culture around electronic kit - rather than the information security element, which is well understood - that Sifton and his colleagues are trying to highlight.

Sifton added that he did visit universities in Ghana supplied with computers donated from the West that would have otherwise been unaffordable. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
14 antivirus apps found to have security problems
Vendors just don't care, says researcher, after finding basic boo-boos in security software
Only '3% of web servers in top corps' fully fixed after Heartbleed snafu
Just slapping a patched OpenSSL on a machine ain't going to cut it, we're told
How long is too long to wait for a security fix?
Synology finally patches OpenSSL bugs in Trevor's NAS
Israel's Iron Dome missile tech stolen by Chinese hackers
Corporate raiders Comment Crew fingered for attacks
Roll out the welcome mat to hackers and crackers
Security chap pens guide to bug bounty programs that won't fail like Yahoo!'s
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Researcher sat on critical IE bugs for THREE YEARS
VUPEN waited for Pwn2Own cash while IE's sandbox leaked
Four fake Google haxbots hit YOUR WEBSITE every day
Goog the perfect ruse to slip into SEO orfice
Secure microkernel that uses maths to be 'bug free' goes open source
Hacker-repelling, drone-protecting code will soon be yours to tweak as you see fit
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.