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How to Dispose of Data and Electronic Devices

April 6, 2022 - by Identity Champion

Today’s the day. Are you ready to toss your old, slow devices aside and upgrade to the latest model?

Not so fast! That outdated device, and the data it holds for you, still need to be handled with care. Before you donate, sell, or dispose of your old equipment, follow these steps to make sure your data is properly stored and/or disposed of.

How to Back Up Your Data

Before you get rid of your device, you want to be certain that your data is securely backed up: 

  1. Copy your data onto a USB stick or external drive. A USB stick can be a cost-effective option to store smaller files. Alternatively, you can purchase an external hard drive, which offers more space if you need to store larger files like high definition photos or videos.
  2. Print out physical copies. This is the definition of low tech, but it works. For an added layer of protection, store the physical copies in a strongbox or safe.  
  3. Utilize cloud storage. Cloud storage has the double bonus of being secure and convenient. Pro Tip: AAA Identity Champion offers up to 30GB of Secure Cloud storage with the “Protect” and “Complete” plans! 

How to Securely Dispose of Data

Before you resell, donate, or recycle a smart device, it’s imperative to make sure that all of your personal data has been permanently erased. The Cybersecurity Infrastructure and Security Agency (CISA) recommends a couple of strategies for clearing data off of your device prior to disposal. 

Delete Data

Depending on the device you’re attempting to delete data from, the methods vary. 

Computers: For permanent data deletion you cannot rely on the deletion method you typically use, such as selecting “delete” from the menu. Even if you “empty the trash” on your computer, deleted files can still be retrieved. Use a disk cleaning software designed to permanently remove or overwrite the data stored on a computer hard drive.

Smartphones and tablets: Perform a “hard reset,” which will return the device to its original factory settings. It’s also advisable to use the “hard reset” method if you’re reselling a digital camera, video game console, or media player.

Destroy Data

There’s no better way to ensure that your device– and the data it contains –can’t be recovered than by completely destroying it. Methods here vary. While services exist to securely crush or incinerate electronics, it can be a fairly simple DIY project to destroy the device yourself. The most common method is to drive nails into the hard drive, breaking it into the smallest pieces possible. 

How to Dispose of Your Device

When you’re finally ready to dispose of your device, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends recycling it if possible, as this allows valuable materials to be reused. According to the EPA, for every 1 million cell phones that are recycled, 35 thousand pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered. 

The EPA has also put together a list of companies that can facilitate electronics recycling (note that the battery should be removed, as this will need to be recycled separately). 

Whether you recycle, donate, or destroy your old device, it’s vitally important to make sure your personal information is not compromised in the process. AAA Identity Champion services like Secure Cloud Storage can help make the transition from the old device to the new as simple– and secure –as possible. Take a look at our available plans before you upgrade your phone or computer. You’ll be glad you have the extra help!  

The content provided in this blog post is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be an offer to sell any Identity Champion product or service. A3 Labs LLC makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of the information contained in this or any blog post on the Identity Champion website.

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