Like most people in this modern age, you probably wonder how safe your identity is when it comes to your computer and the internet. Taking the right measures to keep your identity safe can keep you and your family safe. For example, using the appropriate anti-virus software can lower the chances of you getting infected with a virus, spyware, malware, and other malicious programs that could put your information out as bait for criminals. You probably protect all of your online accounts with strong and secure passwords. You might even lock some of your folders so that guests using your computer don’t find an opportunity to peruse through them. But here’s a question for you: How safe is your identity and information after your computer is tossed away? Believe it or not, your information is still vulnerable after your computer stops working, and that is why it is important to invest in the correct electronic recycling methods.
Imagine there is a government office that stores precious information belonging to citizens, such as their social insurance info. At the office is a government worker who has to stay back late one night, and transfers this information onto his laptop for brief period of time. The next morning at work, the worst happens. His laptop crashes. He takes it in to fix it, but it is gone completely. Luckily, he stored the info on his desktop at home, so it shouldn’t be too bad although he will miss his laptop. He then chucks the laptop with the rest of his recycling, and moves on with his life.
A couple months down the road, a group of hackers and cyber thieves gather in a room to crack the files on some “dead” hard drives. One of the harddrives belongs to the government worker who threw his out in the recycling. With the help of some software, they retrieve all of the social insurance info that is on the harddrive, and with a shouts of laughter they make arrangements to sell the info to other criminal rings.
While this may sound like a scene from a film or a page from a novel, this is problem is occurring more frequently as more harddrives and computers get tossed into landfills. And this situation will likely grow as people around the world throw away their old computers and phones to keep up with the release of newer devices.
Although the chances of this nightmare actually happening to you are slim, the risk still exists. And as more people start tossing away their old devices, the trend is likely to continue and the risk will likely grow. That is why it is a wise idea to practice sound electronic recycling in order to ensure that your old devices don’t contain devices that criminals can easily obtain.
An entire black market industry now continues to expand itself as a result of illegal and irresponsible dumping of electronic waste (e-waste). For starters, many people ignore the suggestions given on practicing proper electronic recycling. They toss their hard drives and devices along with their regular recycling, which brings this hardware to landfill (which is often not their final destination). Not only does this take up unnecessary space and release toxins into both the ground and the atmosphere, but this also creates a massive supply for cyber thieves who are on the hunt for old parts.
This creates the starting point for illegal business. The computer-parts scavengers collect these parts for criminal gangs who pose as recyclers. They will collect mass amounts of this waste and put them into containers (which are supplied by criminals) and load them up on ships which travel overseas to fuel the black market business.
The UN estimates that the world adds 40 million tonnes of e-waste every year. As recovery software becomes cheaper and simpler to use, and more devices end up in landfills, the business of illegal data mining will expand to many countries. Thieves from around the world can now obtain credit card numbers, online records, and other financial and account information which they can share and put into lists which they can sell for profit.
The illegal data mining business has grown to the point where there are now countries that have a reputation for their involvement. In the 90s, European governments along with Japan and the US established routes which allowed bigger countries to ship their excess e-waste to foreign countries. Aside from the overwhelming amount of waste and their health hazards, these governments did not realize they had essentially planted landmines which would come back to haunt them. Now these same countries have their source for feeding black market criminals.
Ghana and Nigeria: A massive amount of e-waste is illegally exported from the U.S and Europe to the African nations of Ghana and Nigeria. Much of this waste ends up in their capital cities (Accra, Ghana and Lagos, Nigeria). Aside from the adverse health effects they cause among the people living this African nations, both of these countries face an epidemic of identity theft. Credit card and banking scams which are popular in these countries (these scams often affect people worldwide), have been attributed to the influx of e-waste pouring in.
India and Pakistan: Much of the European and North American e-waste lands in India and Pakistan. This waste often ends up in their capital cities (Karachi, the former capital of Pakistan and Delhi, India). As e-waste parts arrive in these countries, people often dismantle them to sell the metals – as well as the harddrives that cyber criminals seek.
China: China is one of the most popular destinations for e-waste coming out of the US and Europe. The metals and scrap parts often make their way into factories that produce counterfeit electronic products. Therefore, the supply of e-waste creates a booming black market for criminals in China. Also, identity theft has become a major issue in China and this not surprising due to the huge supply of e-waste flowing into the country.
Although these nations have alarming high rates of identity theft because of e-waste and other circumstances, the threat is real no matter where you live. Illegal rings in almost every country have access to e-waste and as well as the software needed to steal information from them. To keep you and your family safe, it is important that you resort to the right electronic recycling methods. How can you do it?
As mentioned earlier in this article, there are posers and fraudulent people who pretend to recycle electronics in a safe manner. Don’t be fooled! Always keep on the lookout for reputable companies that have the certified labels for electronic recycling. They are responsible to make sure that your old electronics end up in good hands. In some cases, these old devices can be reused or refurbished. Whatever the outcome, a reputable company will process your old hardware into reusable products. When old hardware ends up in landfills, this gives cyber criminals a source to continue their business. When you give your devices to certified electronic recycling companies, this lowers their supply of devices to comb through. Keeping your information safe is as simple as putting your damaged and broken hardware in the right place.