Cyber security event enables safe data disposal


Nick Swindell

Northeastern’s Office of Information Security, or OIS, helped members of the NU community destroy their unwanted data and paper in an event Oct. 15. Throwing old electronics in the garbage can compromise personal information, and OIS wanted to provide a safer alternative.

The event, called Data Destruction Day, brought data storage firm Congruity to campus, along with shredding trucks designed to destroy paper, CDs, hard drives and other types of electronic equipment.

OIS held the first data destruction event three years ago, said Matthew Johnson, an NU senior information security analyst. Johnson described the event as a way to promote his office’s role in supporting technology security and privacy on campus.

“People don’t have a really easy way to recycle their electronics or securely get rid of their data, and so we wanted to give people an opportunity to get rid of their equipment. We’ll take it all year long, but we just wanted to get our name out and give people an opportunity,” Johnson said.

Congruity employee Brian Mewhinney described the variety of methods that can be used to securely erase users’ data.

“Physically, there’s a few different ways,” Mewhinney said, “a magnet, or there’s the actual mobile shredder. [Our] facility has a giant one that we jam pack hard drives with.”

Mewhinney also added that the shredding service “protects privacy and prevents the equipment from sitting in a landfill for 30 or 45 years.”

Shredding this equipment is also more responsible than recycling it, which will likely lead to adverse environmental effects comparable to just throwing it in the garbage.

Multiple academic department staff brought crates of old paper and data while students looked to shred laptops and other personal equipment.

Precious metals like gold can be recycled separately from most electronics, so after being shredded, Congruity gives much of the remains to other companies who can extract those metals from the remains.

Megan Perkins, an information security manager at OIS, emphasized the importance of going a step further in protecting personal data, especially during National Cyber Security Awareness Month.

“A lot of people just throw this stuff away,” Perkins said, “but shredding it makes sure no one can access it and all that sensitive information is destroyed.”