UK Companies Risk Data Theft Through Dirty Dumping

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Computer Aid warns that companies risk reputational damage by not disposing of IT equipment properly

Research commissioned by IT charity Computer Aid International has revealed that over one third of the UK’s largest companies have decommissioned computers without wiping off sensitive data, creating a significant risk of data theft and reputational damage.

The report examined the IT disposal practices of 100 senior IT decision makers at UK companies with more than 1,000 employees.

“Severe damage to people and the environment”

According to the report, data security was cited as the primary concern for 68 percent of companies, yet only 61 percent currently wiped data from their redundant computers, leaving customers open to fraud and firms vulnerable to intellectual property theft and breaches of the Data Protection Act.

In addition, only 43 percent of IT decision makers said they were able to account for all decommissioned PCs.

Anja French, Director of Communications at Computer Aid commented: “This research shows that current IT decommissioning practices in many companies seem to be resulting in every IT manager’s worst nightmare – hundreds of thousands of redundant PCs containing sensitive corporate data, completely unaccounted for. By not disposing of their IT properly, companies risk huge financial, legal and reputational costs and can cause severe damage to people and the environment.”

Waste not want not

An estimated 67 percent of e-waste generated in the EU is unaccounted for, meaning that it could have been sent to landfill or illegally exported to developing countries where it is processed in an unsafe manner.

Computer Aid, along with the Environment Agency, has warned that companies should be more vigilant about how their old equipment is disposed of and ensure it meets the EU WEEE directive. Dumping e-waste in landfill is illegal as PCs contain hazardous materials such as lead, mercury and arsenic which need proper treatment when processed.

Computer Aid has also been keen to stress that reuse is the most environmentally and socially beneficial way to deal with old equipment, claiming to have professionally refurbished over 150,000 PC’s for use in developing countries.

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