Today’s Editorial July 15: No hackers required, gov’t info free

Old government computers given to Northward Prison’s education programme could be giving unintended lessons.

The Complaints Commission has learned that many government offices aren’t doing a proper job of erasing the memories of computers deemed obsolete for government work but still in good enough working order for the prison or charitable organisations.

That’s not good.

In the instance at Northward Prison, inmates received computers that were no longer needed at the Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs.

Nobody in the Portfolio could verify whether sensitive information had been cleared from the computers before they were recycled.

Imagine an inmate at Northward stumbling across information from that portfolio, which includes the operations of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, Immigration and Customs, among others.

Charities have also discovered information on computers given to them by government departments and agencies that deal with sensitive information.

Fortunately, none of the information has been exploited, that we know of.

Sending computers from government offices into the public domain could pose a security risk to the Cayman Islands says a report for the Complaints Commission Office. We couldn’t agree more.

The office also found problems with the disposal of junked data storage devices. Hard drives that are no longer usable for the government are also finding their way into the already overcrowded George Town Landfill where scavengers are taking the spare computer parts.

What is so disturbing about all of this is that by-and-large those in charge of computers in government departments have no clue about where desktop computers go after they finish using them. Those that find their way into the landfill are contributing to the already growing toxic ooze that is being concocted at Mount Trashmore.

A single computer contains metals such as lead, mercury, gold and silver as well as many other materials. Some can be recovered and reused, but others, if not treated and discarded properly, can be hazardous to our health and environment.

It’s bad enough that Government hasn’t done anything tangible about Trashmore, but now we learn that it is contributing to the problem by dumping electronic waste.

Not all government departments are guilty of contributing to the security risk and e-waste problems; some like the schools system have satisfactory electronic data management policies and practices.

We encourage all government departments to get a better handle on how computers are dealt with once they’ve passed their prime. Our security and environment are at risk.

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