Investigators

Disposing of electronics properly helps protect personal data

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) - Protecting personal information is becoming more difficult in this era of social-media data mining. There are, however, some simple ways to safeguard written and electronic information.

Shredding documents is one way to make sure an identity isn't stolen. This can be done at home with a personal shredder by destroying a few documents at a time.

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Many documents can take a while, though.

To help out, the Better Business Bureau of eastern North Carolina is co-hosting a "Secure Your ID" day as part of a bulk shredding event in Raleigh.

"We're partnering with Coastal Federal Credit Union on this event," said the BBB's Mallory Wojciechowski. "It's free for consumers, and we encourage them to bring documents that need to be shredded and electronic items that need to be recycled."

Paper documents will be disposed of by SHRED IT.

Any electronics dropped off will end up at the Global Electric Electronic Processing recycling facility in Durham. The company uses special techniques to make sure sensitive data is wiped clean off of any devices that may be re-purposed. 

"We use a department of defense standard of Blancco Wiping software that utilizes data sanitization to a one pass, three pass, or seven pass wipe, which basically removes all data," said GEEP's Brooks Callisher."

Many other devices, like computers and phones, will not be re-purposed. They are simply shredded into what looks like flakes of dust containing all sorts of valuable metals that were used in circuits and such.

A shipping container of shredded components contains up to three pounds of gold, as well as several more pounds of silver, copper, and palladium, which is melted down and reused.

"We refer to it as above-ground mining, which ends up with 10 to 15 percent higher yields than traditional mining," Callisher said. 

But it's not just laptops and mobile devices that store sensitive information. For example, printers and fax machines store everything they've ever seen and need to be disposed of properly. GEEP grinds them up to harvest the valuable materials inside.

Electronics taken to the Wake County convenience centers for recycling will end up at the GEEP facility because the company has a contract to properly dispose of them.

Simply dropping electronics in the trash won't protect the data that's stored, and criminals can access it.

"A lot of identity theft happens through dumpster diving," Wojciechowski said.

The GEEP Durham facility takes in about 17 million pounds of reusable electronic waste every year. That's estimated to increase by 10 percent each year over the next decade as electronics use grows. 

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