Data Protection Series: How to Protect Electronic Data on Devices

John Sharpe

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Many of us buy new devices each year. From cell phones, to tablets, TVs and wearable tech, citizens around the globe can’t stop committing to the latest and next ‘big thing.’ But where do all of our old devices go, and how much of our electronic data do they take with them?

In 2014, global smartphone sales grew by 23 percent, but according to the EPA, only 27% of our e-waste is recycled annually. This means our consumption of smartphones and other gadgets continues to grow, while our old models end up as waste. Globally, 30 to 50 million tons of electronic devices are put into the trash every year. Consumer education around these issues is important, but a switch to more renewable materials could also prove helpful.

It’s not just consumers who are putting our environment and private electronic data in jeopardy with their e-waste. Small businesses and big corporations dispose of printers and copiers that hold confidential information, switches and routers that hold secure addresses and can provide leaks, USB keys that are usually more trouble than they’re worth and Flash/SSD cards, which are difficult to wipe because of their random nature. Within our IT Asset Disposition program, we actually destroy Flash/SSD items instead of recycling or wiping and reselling them (as we do with other e-waste), due to these complications.

Of course, Flash/SSD cards are not the only pieces of e-waste that need to be protected. Every piece of tech you’ve ever owned, whether related to your business or personal life (or, in the case of BYOD policies, both), has the ability to tell your secrets and make you vulnerable for a hack. This is especially scary when you consider that the Internet of Things continues to gain traction. Even devices that aren’t currently connected to the IoT will be in the near future. How will the data security firms of the world measure and control this electronic data? Things could get tricky soon.

The fact is, the world data volume is growing, and the IoT is only one by-product of that. In fact, 90 per cent of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone. According to Aureus, this volume will expand 40% per year and 50 times by 2020. The IoT market, for its part, is predicted to see a $28.1 billion rise by 2020.

With so much additional data, how can we possibly store it all safely? If we put it all into the Cloud, price could grow beyond budget. Instead, consider offsite tape archival. Offsite archival of your long-term data is key in keeping what you need for retention and compliance purposes safe, while putting the information you need quickly into the Cloud. However, keep in mind that storing the least amount of customer/employee information in the Cloud is ideal. Instead, put this data on tape. Tape can hold your most precious customer and employee data offline, offsite and out of harm’s way.

5 Tips for Protecting Personal and Company Data:

  1. Use complicated passwords that are easy for you to remember but difficult for others to guess.
  1. Know that when you’re joining a Wi-Fi network, you’re giving away a lot of information. Be especially careful when using your VPN. Do not connect to unknown networks.
  1. Watch your personal space. Fellow commuters on the train or the table next to you at the coffee shop shouldn’t have a view of personal or company information.
  1. Never plug in a USB or SD device that you are unsure about. Using these devices in the workplace is typically discouraged.
  1. Educate yourself and your fellow employees about best practices for data privacy and protection. Employee mistakes are one of the leading causes of data breaches.

Now that you have the basics, it’s time to dive deeper. Read John Woolley’s blog on 5 Things Your IT Team Needs to Know about Data Security.

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