New research launched by Blancco Technology Group, the industry-standard in data erasure and mobile lifecycle solutions, reveals current practices and policies for device sanitisation within the public sector says that governments in public sector companies in the world spend $17 million annually to destroy SSDs.
Blancco’s study, The Price of Destruction: Exploring the Financial & Environmental Costs of Public Sector Device Sanitisation, researchers spoke to 596 government IT leaders across nine countries, including 70 in India.
The study was commissioned by Blancco Technology Group and conducted independently by Coleman Parkes Research in December 2021 and January 2022. Data was gathered from 596 government employees from nine countries: the United States (U.S.), Canada, the United Kingdom (U.K.), France, Germany, Japan, Singapore, India, and Australia. Fifty-five percent work for organizations between 1,000 and 4,999 employees, and 45 per cent work for organizations with more than 5,000 employees. The countries represent the North America, Europe, and Asia Pacific regions in which Blancco operates.
The survey revealed that the governments and public sector organisations represented spend as much as USD$17 million annually on the physical destruction of solid-state drives (SSDs), a data storage device widely used both independently and within laptops, desktops, and servers.
Additionally, replacement costs added another $40 million, bringing expenses up to $57 million for destroying public sector technology that is often still usable. For 70 organisations surveyed in each country, the costs for SSD destruction and replacement reached between $6.9 million and $7.3 million for the U.S. and between $6.4 million and $6.9 million for the U.K.
With global electronic (e-waste) called the “world’s fastest-growing domestic waste stream,” the study also explores the environmental costs of physical destruction and the public sector’s current engagement with sustainable alternatives. Unnecessary destruction increases IT operations and materials costs for fiscally constrained public sector organisations. It also fosters increased e-waste creation during a global call for more prudent environmental stewardship.
Despite 54 per cent of respondents agreeing that reuse of SSDs is better for the environment than physical destruction and almost all respondents (93 per cent) saying their organisation had defined plans to reduce the environmental impact caused by destroying IT equipment, less than a quarter (21 per cent) are actively implementing those plans.
For security reasons, physical destruction is still mandated if decommissioned drives were used to store classified or secret data. For unclassified data-bearing assets, other data sanitisation solutions are available.
On the whole, respondents were well informed of their country’s or region’s respective data protection laws. However, some respondents’ processes for carrying out compliant SSD sanitisation are concerning. For example, 78 per cent of respondents globally said they reformat drives to sanitise them. Unfortunately, formatting alone can still leave drives vulnerable during transport or storage, and much of the data can be recovered with forensics tools easily available online.
“Governments and public sector organisations are responsible for handling some of the most sensitive information in the world. But several factors, including accelerated digital transformation, rising numbers of public sector data breaches and global sustainability initiatives, are changing the data management landscape,” said Alan Bentley, President of Global Strategy, Blancco.
He further added that with growing environmental and funding pressures, there is a need for these public sector operations to be more sustainable and efficient while maintaining robust security. Public sector organisations must explore SSD sanitisation alternatives to demonstrate prudent use of agency funds and a greater contribution to national and international sustainability efforts.
“We’ve seen several public sector departments benefit from moving away from destroying data bearing assets to reusing them or building up the circular economy. Our study highlights that there are significant opportunities for policy reform surrounding SSD data protection as national policymakers seek to steward financial, environmental, and data resources entrusted to their care,” added Bentley.
As the report concludes, governments and public sector organisations are committing to sustainability improvements, but very few have pushed forward with their implementation. This is resulting in a high cost of SSD destruction and replacement.
With governments and public sector organisations under the spotlight when it comes to spending, it is increasingly urgent that they consider sustainable alternatives that extend device life, maintain lock-tight data security on end-of-life SSDs and, ultimately, save public services millions of dollars.
According to Blancco’s global study of 596 public sector respondents:
41 per cent of respondents say physical destruction is mandated by law to physically destroy SSDs that contain classified data, so they destroy all SSDs “just in case.”
Almost a quarter (22 per cent) are unaware of alternative methods of sanitisation.
Between 23 per cent to 52 per cent of organisations within a country believed that physical destruction was cheaper than other sanitisation solutions, including those that would facilitate reuse and longer device life.
35 per cent believe there is no certified or approved vendor or solution that provides another option for them.
Between 37 per cent and 45 per cent of our respondents’ devices, or the drives alone, are sent off-site for physical destruction.