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Concerns Grow Over E-waste's Afterlife

Study finds companies are investing heavily in IT security, but paying little attention to electronic hardware at the end of their lives.

If only disposing of e-waste was as easy as tossing a napkin in the trash. But in an age when auditors and government officials can use discarded data as evidence, proper handling of electronic waste has taken on increasing concern for companies.

According to a recent analysis by Aberdeen, data security and environmental regulations are the top pressures that are compelling businesses to invest resources in e-waste disposal. In fact, e-waste security ranked highest among organization priorities and allocated resources. Over 74% of companies in the "Responsible disposal of IT Assets" study had a strict data-protection policy already in place, with another 19% planning to implement one in the next 12 months.

There's certainly ample reason for concern. Since 2003, there have been nearly 1,500 public disclosures of data loss involving stolen, lost or disposed assets, according to DataLossDB, a research project aimed at documenting data loss incidents worldwide.

Though compliance with environmental regulation laws ranked as a top concern among respondents in the Aberdeen study, less than half of all businesses participating had an individual or team chiefly responsible for disposing of electronic hardware at the end of their useful lives.

So while companies are investing heavily in protecting sensitive data, they aren't paying nearly as much attention about what happens when it's thrown in the trash.

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