Data destruction claims rubbished

A charity that supplies refurbished PCs to the developing world has slammed reports suggesting the only reliable way to totally remove data from a hard drive involves a six-inch nail
Written by Will Sturgeon, Contributor

A charity which reconditions second hand computers for use in the Third World has hit out at media coverage this week which encouraged companies to destroy old kit by driving nails through the hard drive of each computer they discard.

Computer Aid International assures businesses it will wipe data to government approved levels and offers strict reassurances to businesses that their data will be entirely removed before the PC gets its new lease of life.

However, the organisation fears media hype from mainstream press will see a decline in the numbers of computers it is able to send to schools and hospitals in countries such as Rwanda.

Vaneeta Mahtani, security specialist at Computer Aid, told ZDNet UK sister site silicon.com: "We cover all requirements in terms of legal responsibility. We will collect the equipment from the company and will ensure all data is removed to the strictest of standards."

The original research, compiled by Glamorgan University, suggested a high percentage of computers which get discarded at their end of life contain large amounts of sensitive data, however the University is concerned that its research will wrongly be used as a justification for the destruction of equipment which could still serve a purpose elsewhere.

Dr Andrew Blythe from Glamorgan University's computer science department told ZDNet UK sister site silicon.com the reason behind the research was an attempt to publicise the need to do more to ensure data is destroyed before it is passed elsewhere -- be it a charity, a recycler or even a landfill, until understanding of the WEEE directive removes the latter option entirely.

Blythe told silicon.com: "I wholly support companies donating PCs to charity but only as long as they realise that doesn't abdicate their responsibility as far as the data on those computers is concerned."

Mahtani encouraged any companies still tempted by the hammer and nails option to talk to Computer Aid. She said the organisation would even give back control units for the companies to check after the data has been wiped.

"We are fully open to that. We have total faith in our methods and would urge companies to try us out."

As reported earlier this month, Computer Aid has already refurbished 40,000 PCs and sent them out to schools, community projects and other not-for-profit organisations in 90 countries, mainly in the developing world.

Companies and individuals who wish to donate PCs and other computing equipment to Computer Aid can do so online through BridgeTheDigitalDivide.com, a site jointly run with ZDNet UK's parent company CNET Networks UK.

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