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Cybercriminals hack away at coronavirus e-waste

The coronavirus crisis is distracting people from thinking critically about responsible end-of-life electronics management – and specifically data destruction – according to a leading recycler.

‘The hacking of used hardware is an overlooked crime’ was the key message from John Shegerian, ceo of electronics recycler ERI, during the recent E-waste World Conference. He calls this illegal activity ‘the greatest little secret of the cyber security world’.

Shegerian points out that cybercrime cost the world economy US$ 3 trillion (EUR 2.5 trillion) in 2015 and the figure is projected to double by next year. He laments that people have only recently started talking about the fate of used electronics.

‘The menace of misappropriated e-waste simply wasn’t on the radar. But we have to bear in mind that no company and no household is immune to being breached,’ he cautions.

Following the outbreak of the pandemic, more electronics are being purchased for a range of activities including setting up home offices and tackling infection rates. Shegerian says this opens up a new chapter for data security.

‘Most people are staying in, working from their living room or study. But are their personal computers as secure as the ones at the office? Unlikely. This means recyclers offering data destruction services will have a tonne more customers in the coming years.’

Healthcare IT is a major market with a value expected to exceed US$ 390 billion (EUR 330 billion) by 2024 and one that is increasingly attracting criminals.

Interpol is warning that hospitals are being targeted at a time when they obviously have other things to think about right. ‘It’s an insult to those working on the frontline of the crisis we find ourselves in,’ Shegerian says.

Meanwhile, the number of internet-connected (IoT) devices is projected to grow from roughly 14 billion currently to 21 billion by 2025. They include items such as smart watches, digital doorbell systems, voice-operated speakers, electronic fridges and thermostats that can be controlled from a phone.

‘These wonderful gadgets did not even exist when we founded ERI 17 years ago. Now, they’re popping up everywhere,’ Shegerian says.

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