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New investigation: EU dumping e-waste in poor countries

2019-06-17

Europe is shipping huge amounts of toxic electronic waste to developing countries. This is revealed in a new investigation by Basel Action Network (BAN). BAN secretly installed GPS trackers in 314 old computers, printers and monitors. Two years later, the group found that 19 of the tracked scraps were exported, including 11 illegal shipments to Ghana, Hong Kong, Nigeria, Pakistan, Tanzania, Thailand and Ukraine.

The investigation sheds light on the illegal trade of electronic waste from EU countries to Asia and Africa, where entire communities are exposed to pollution from burning or chemical acid stripping methods used to extract copper, gold, steel and aluminium.

The investigation points the finger at several EU countries. The country exporting the most e-waste was the UK with five exports, followed by Denmark and Ireland with three each. BAN estimates more than 300 000 metric tonnes are illegally shipped from EU to developing countries every year - enough to fill more than 17 000 shipping containers.

Exporting e-waste from EU to developing countries is illegal, but European recyclers have developed scams to export e-waste as reusable products rather than hazardous waste.

“Once a product can no longer be reused, the waste should remain in Europe where valuable materials can be extracted safely and put back on the market”, says Piotr Barczak, waste expert with the European Environmental Bureau (EEB).

The big e-waste problem also received attention at the World Economic Forum meeting in January, where a new report on the issue was presented by the UN. The study concludes: “Electronic waste remains a largely unused, yet growing, valuable resource”.

4 of 10 computers on eBay carry sensitive data

2019-05-24

A new study from Blancco Technology Group reports sensitive data on 42% of hard drives purchased on eBay. The researchers also found personally identifiable information on 15% of the forensically analyzed drives.

The sellers insisted that proper data sanitization methods had been used to clean the drives before putting the products up for sale on eBay. This was obviously not correct, which the sheer breadth of information that was recovered from these drives suggests. One drive, for example, contained scanned images of family passports and birth certificates along with financial records. The seller was a software developer "with a high level of government security clearance". Other drives were found to have 5GB of archived internal office email from a major travel company, 3GB of data from a freight company including documents that detailed shipping schedules and truck registrations, university student papers and associated email addresses and school data that was comprised of photos and documents with pupil names and grades.

Many, both companies and private sellers, will say that they don’t have any valuable information. But this common misconception is dismissed by Fredrik Forslund at Blancco:
"Selling old hardware via an online marketplace creates a serious risk of exposing dangerous levels of personal data." According to Forslund, the risk is increased when these drives are sold under the impression that all data has been securely erased as part of the hardware decommissioning process.

Historically, high-powered magnets have been used to clean hard drives. But that is not a good solution when Solid State Drives (SSDs) are involved, since SSDs employ integrated circuit assemblies as memory.

"Since SSDs don't store data magnetically new processes to protect data prior to disposal are required", says Tim Mackey at Synopsys.

Retired IT equipment getting younger?

2019-05-24

A new survey from American ITAD company Liquid Technology indicates the life span of IT equipment is getting shorter. Nearly 40 percent of the companies in the recent 2019 survey said they expect to retire the majority of their IT assets when they are “about three years old.” This shows a significant change from the results of the 2018 survey, when less than 30 percent said “about three years old”.