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SmartBiz's Keys to Online Success: Be Careful With Your Trash
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By Carl Weinschenk

We live in an information- and technology-driven society. That's a good thing for small businesses because savvy use of electronic devices and the Internet can enable small businesses to operate on a level far grander than in the old days.

The reality is, however, that the bad folks—some sophisticated, some not—also have access to these tools. It's a cat and mouse game. Luckily, the use antivirus software, firewalls, virtual private networks and other security products and procedures has been accepted by an increasing number of small business people.

Perhaps there is a psychological barrier in play, but the reality is that once people are done using the data they have, they become far less careful with it.

For one thing, it is important to cut up documents before putting them out in the trash. On a more technical level, old computers should be handled must be handled with care.

This is partly a legal issue. Rules and regulations about handling—and discarding—of data spelled out in Sarbanes-Oxley and the Health Insurance Portability And Accountability Act must be followed by small as well as large organizations.

Simply erasing hard drives isn’t enough. Experts on the "dark side"—the crooks—easily can resurrect data removed in this manner. The best advice is to retain professionals to dispose of old computers. The drives can be physically destroyed, or these firms can use sophisticated procedures to make the drives truly unreadable. On a non-security level, it is important to discard of old computing devices carefully since they are full of dangerous substances. Indeed, just tossing them in a landfill is illegal in most places.

Carl Weinschenk is the Editorial Director of SmartBiz.
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