In 2018, experts estimated that consumer electronics sales in the U.S. would reach $351 billion. That’s a whopping 3.9% increase from 2017.
Ranking high on the list of such devices is the smartphone, with 77% of U.S. consumers owning one. That’s followed by desktops and laptops, owned by 73% of Americans. Let’s not forget tablets, home theater systems, and gaming consoles among many others.
So, it’s no wonder, that the average U.S. family generates 176 pounds of e-waste every year. That’s a lot of waste, which you can keep from landfills by recycling your devices.
But not without following these data security tips and protocols first! Fail to do so, and you can end up being a victim of cybercrime. Think identity theft, fraudulent charges, account takeovers, and so much more.
Ready to do the environment good while still keeping your data safe? Then let’s dive right into it!
Why Care about Data Security When Recycling Devices
Because cybercrime is a massive business, with a global cost of $600 billion every year. And cybercriminals aren’t picky – they target anyone who they can profit from. That includes almost half of small businesses and yes, even unsuspecting individuals.
Silicone heaven is much of a haven to cybercriminals as recycled electronics. If you don’t wipe your data permanently of your devices, your data is likely to fall in the wrong hands.
If it does, identity fraud is one of the first things that’ll happen to you. Identity theft and fraud in the U.S. is on the rise, having left 16.7 million victims in its wake in 2017.
This alone should be enough reason for you to care about your data security. Otherwise, it’s like you’re serving cybercriminals your sensitive details on a silver platter.
Pre-Sanitization: Back Your Data Up
Before you switch smartphones or donate your old electronics, back up the data first. In fact, do this even if you’re a long way from recycling your gadgets.
It’s an extra security measure in case someone steals your device or it gets lost. Smartphone theft is big in the U.S. — more than 100 phones are either stolen or lost every single day. In case your phone does get stolen, you can remotely wipe the data stored in it.
So long as you have a backup, then you can access the same data from another location. You can use another device, say your laptop or desktop, or external storage, such as an external hard drive. You can even use your Mac to back up Gmail emails and other data from your soon-to-be-recycled device.
Another option is to use data acquisition tools. These products let you export data to another location, which can help you back your files up with ease.
You can also use a cloud storage service, which lets you back up and access the data online. If you don’t have a lot of files to back up, take advantage of the free cloud storage from Google Drive, iCloud, or Dropbox.
Completely Delete All Files
Once you’ve created a backup, you can delete everything stored in your old device. But this step requires more than hitting the “delete” button on your keyboard or phone screen. Complete and permanent removal of data depends on the type of device you have.
PCs, Laptops, and External Hard Drives
Using a disk cleaning software is a key step on how to protect your data stored in your PC or laptop. It offers a permanent method for removing data in your devices’ internal hard drive. It deletes not only files in your hard drive, but also saved passwords on browsers.
Use this type of program, and recovering deleted data is almost impossible. You have two disk cleaning options to choose from: “secure erase” and “disk wiping”.
Most internal hard drives come with a “secure erase” feature. It’s a collection of commands that when executed, overwrites the entire hard drive. This “overwriting” deletes all the previously-stored data in the drive.
Another way on how to keep your data secure before you recycle it is to use a disk wiping utility. As the term suggests, it completely wipes hard drives of everything stored in them. You can also use these programs for permanent removal of data in EHDs and flash drives.
Other Mobile Devices
Perform a complete factory reset on your smartphone or tablet before you get it recycled. All mobile devices have a built-in factor reset program under their settings option. For example, if you have an iPhone, you can go to Settings and then General.
Make sure you include deleting the content of your SIM card too, unless you’re reusing it. Just don’t forget to remove the card before handing your device to the recycling facility.
All Other Data-Carrying Electronics
Perform a factory reset on your video gaming consoles (PlayStations, Nintendos, etc.). This will delete all your saved data in them, including your account and payment details. A factory reset will also remove your saved game files, so be sure you’ve backed it up beforehand.
Do the same procedure on your digital cameras and WiFi-connected scanners and printers. Make sure you reset their memory card to factory settings too, before removing the card.
The Ultimate Data Removal Method: Drive Nails into It
So long as you follow the above steps for data deletion, you should be good to go. But if you’re worried that some bits of your data remain on your electronics, go ahead and take out your hammer. Drive nails into each device before you bring it to a recycling center.
Protect Yourself with These Data Security Tips
Granted, recycling your e-waste can do the environment a lot of good. But if you forget to wipe your data off these devices, they’re not the only thing that will be up for recycling. It won’t take long for cybercriminals to recover your data and “recycle” it for their own gain.
So, follow all these data security tips before you send your devices to a recycling facility! That way, you can avoid being part of the growing statistics of cybercrime victims.
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