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Companies warned of risk of exposing confidential data as WEEE Directive nears.

Byline: By Russell Lawson

With companies preparing for the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive enforcement in July, they will come under increasing scrutiny and could face damaging costs if they don't have proper procedures in place when deleting data from computers.

More and more companies are taking an ethical and admirable approach to used computer equipment through recycling or donations to schools and charities.

However, some data security services don't go far enough to delete confidential information that resides on the hard drive and that's how data is getting into fraudsters' hands.

We've all heard stories of private information being retrieved from laptops abandoned in skips or bought on eBay, but there is no excuse for this.

Consumers and businesses have a range of cost-effective solutions to choose from, but the key to a guaranteed safeguard is ensuring the product has a government standards accreditation.

As the WEEE Directive introduction date draws closer, companies are working closely with asset management and recycling companies but it's still important for businesses to take responsibility for ensuring these services provide maximum protection.

And companies risk exposing confidential information that remains on a hard drive when recycling or giving used computer equipment to charity.

This is becoming a very real problem - as businesses they have two battles to contend with if they are to effectively delete data from PCs.

Firstly, they must ensure their data is actually removed by using a product that is of a government security standard.

Secondly, it is the responsibility of IT managers to educate departments across companies or, in the case of small businesses, the owner-manager themselves, on the importance of data security and how to delete files so they cannot be retrieved.

Only when all staff are committed to the processes will company confidential information be safe from harm.

Not everyone realises that the "delete" button only updates a table that tells the operating system that the file has been deleted.

Even though average users are not able to access the file, the entire contents of the file are still there, meaning anyone with a little technical knowledge could retrieve them if the computer fell into the wrong hands.

Many people believe that reformatting their drive will sufficiently delete all of the old data - that isn't the case.

As with deleting, the format button updates tables indicating that all files and catalogues have been deleted, but does not physically delete the data from the storage medium.

Common file deletion tools only erase certain files and certain partitions - not the entire hard disk.

This is a common misconception for companies trying to delete old data. Using these tools, it is difficult to guarantee that all data has physically been overwritten.

A user cannot control when and where data is saved on the media because the system may have saved the same contents at several different "temporary" sites.

To ensure all data is overwritten, it is best to use software that guarantees data deletion specifically for that purpose.

Even if storage media is severely damaged, the information on it may still be accessible.

It is possible to partially or fully retrieve data that is stored on a physically damaged storage medium.

For situations where companies need to dispose of damaged media, they should use a "degausser" that can demagnetise the platters and completely erase the drive rendering it unusable.

There is a raft of solutions to consider and software leaders such as Microsoft have published privacy guidelines to help safeguard against data fraud.

For any company looking to bring their deletion policies in line with Microsoft's suggestions, it is imperative that they work with a professional supplier that offers multiple solutions.

Using professional deletion software from a trusted provider and not just deletion tools helps ensure data security.
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jun 27, 2007
Words:630
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