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5/25/2003

Computer mission: Seek and destroy

By Elisabeth Nardi
The Daily Times-Call

Hard drives are hard to erase.

In fact, said Bob Knowles — CEO and founder of Technology Recycling — it’s almost impossible.

“There is really no way to take data completely off these hard drives— unless maybe you have 30 years of IT experience and a lot of time,” Knowles said.

Trying to solve the problem, two Colorado-based companies have joined to offer computer users peace of mind when getting rid of hardware.

For a $10 fee, Webroot Software of Boulder and Technology Recycling of Denver will annihilate your hard drive through a program called EcoSafe Drive Destruction.

“People’s information is at risk,” Knowles said.

Christine Stevenson — vice president of marketing for Webroot, which sells computer-security products online — said that when a computer changes hands, the new owner can access any information on that hard drive: credit card numbers, bank records, buying habits and all.

Webroot mails out kits that include instructions on how to remove a hard drive. Each kit contains a postage-paid envelope addressed to one of Technology Recycling’s nine processing centers across the country.

Knowles said that when hard drives arrive, they are taken apart, sorted for recyclable parts and then melted down.

“Supposed recycled hard drives are being sold on eBay,” Knowles said. “Disposing of hard drives is different than recycling them.”

Boulder’s Center for Hard to Recycle Materials, which is part of Eco-Cycle, also accepts computers.

Dan Matsch, program manager for CHaRM, said Eco-Cycle can’t guarantee the security of computers that are dropped off. But, he said, computer data is only at risk when computers sit around for a long time — and at the center, they don’t.

“Reality is, it’s pretty safe. All we do is sort and ship them off,” Matsch said.

“End-of-life equipment” is sent to centers where they are broken down and recycled. Other computers are donated to nonprofit organizations. Matsch said nonprofits usually “wipe” the systems, scrambling the computer’s memory.

Still, “hackers know the information might be there,” Stevenson said.

Stevenson and Knowles said their partnership evolved because both companies realized that consumers were at risk.

“Webroot really showed that there was a huge marketplace not being addressed,” Knowles said.

For more information on recycling computers, visit www.ecocycle.org or www.webroot.com.

Elisabeth Nardi can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 389, or by e-mail at enardi@times-call.com.