Data breaches at universities could be detrimental

security of students and staff. Data breaches, especially relating to the personal information of pupils or staff, research data and intellectual property, could pose a huge risk for all.

Inadequate IT protection as well as human error could be key contributory factors to data loss. It is therefore vital that everyone is aware of the need to secure data as part of the data protection policy and usage guidelines.


Xperien CEO Wale Arewa warns that all educational institutions have a duty to protect sensitive information and data collected and used.


"They need to ensure that all the IT assets and the data held on them are properly managed and protected, from procurement to daily use and the eventual safe disposal, including recycling to recuperate any residual value for the school, college or university," he explains.


Arewa says this is made even more complicated by the proliferation of information across the entire network, where modern smart devices have been a real game-changer in the way educational institutions operate.


Besides theft or loss, another major risk for data leakage is when smart devices and traditional IT systems become redundant. From desktops and laptops to mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, all have trusted links to the network and data systems.


In addition, storage media such as USB drives contain critical data and are no longer anyone's responsibility at end of life. This is when a robust and thorough process for IT disposition is vital.


"End-of-life IT assets can hold value for any organisation with the potential to recycle, re-sell or even reuse some items. However, it is crucial that these items are cleaned of data or destroyed securely to ensure data security legislation is adhered to and your establishment is not vulnerable," he warns.


Failing to implement the right IT asset disposal policies could put educational institutions at risk of falling foul of data protection regulations. They could also be wasting resources if their IT budget is not servicing their requirements properly.


"Keeping a close eye on all your assets and the data stored on them is an essential consideration and will ensure your budget is providing the level of service you require," says Arewa.


A well-designed ITAD policy makes it fully possible to avoid data loss on redundant assets and at the same time to reduce one's total cost of ownership. This can include data erasure, and where necessary, safely destroying the data device for complete assurance.


Arewa says ensuring secure and safe disposal of IT assets is critical. "Unwanted IT equipment can offer some return on investment. For example, a used computer hard disk drive can pose an obvious threat to data loss, but the rest of the machine may be fully serviceable and safe to re-use with a new HDD."


Selling safely erased equipment is an ideal way to recuperate value from items that are no longer required. Equally, once the data has been securely erased, these items would be ideal for charitable donations, ensuring unwanted items can be reused by worthy causes whilst also saving the potential environmental impact of disposal.


However, when an item has no intrinsic value left, recycling is the only option. As well as ensuring data is safely disposed of, some legacy items harbour dangerous substances and chemicals. To avoid any further ethical or legal issues, it is wise to ensure eWaste compliance.


"The perfect way to do this is to employ an expert disposal team who will remove any hazardous legacy items for safe disposal, ensuring environmental compliance," he concludes.

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