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Smartphones: Friend or Foe?

At this point in time, you can carry most of the world in your pocket. No, we don’t mean the grains of sand that you haven’t been able to get out since your last trip to the beach. We’re talking about the small, black rectangle you call a smartphone. It’s far from an ordinary phone. You can connect with people all around the world with a swipe of its touchscreen. You can access detailed maps of your upcoming road trip. You can even hook it up with other gadgets in your home, allowing you to lock doors and adjust the temperature of your house remotely.

In many ways, this gadget has made your life easier. From gaming to household management, the apps you’ve downloaded on your phone can simplify your daily routine. But they also create new problems. When you start storing personal information on your smartphone – like your contact details, account numbers, and other preferences – you’re opening up yourself to new security threats. If you’re not careful, you can accidentally release data to individuals and corporations that have no business knowing this information.

The most common way of doing this is by losing your phone or by having it stolen. In Canada, there are no reliable statistics recording the number of lost or stolen gadgets, but the studies released from our neighbours to the south can give you a good idea of how prevalent this issue is. Nearly 3 million Americans had their cellphone stolen in 2013, and this figure will only rise as the number of individuals who own smartphones increases. Even if you aren’t specifically targeted by cellphone thieves, it’s not hard to accidentally misplace these small rectangular gadgets out in the world. That’s why it’s so important to consider our following pieces of advice – just in case you end up losing your phone.

Use passwords
Smartphones come equipped with convenient password protection features to secure your privacy, and we suggest you take advantage of the pattern-based or alpha-numeric password functions. It may be annoying to have to input this information every time you check your phone, but trust us – it pales in comparison to the inconvenience of losing a phone that can be opened by anyone with two thumbs. Once these passwords are engaged, only those with the appropriate passkey or pattern can access the information stored on the phone. With one protecting your phone, you’ll ensure no one will be able to look up the personal information stored on your apps or in your files because they won’t be able to get past your locked screen.

Beware of apps
Most of us think nothing of downloading the latest app. If we have the sudden need for the latest game and we have the space for it, then it finds its way onto our phones as quickly as our Internet can download it. But you may want to rethink what you’re putting onto your phone before you do it, considering what sort of information it requires. Financial apps will obviously need access to your personal information, but they’re not the only apps to use or store your data. Even seemingly harmless games, messaging services, and photo apps will access your personal information, so it’s important you read their terms and conditions before you allow it permission. Only approve apps from trusted sources.

Think twice before selling
With the way smartphones cost nowadays, you may want to sell your old model before you upgrade. While this is a sensible way to augment the financial burden of having the best generation, it can be a cause for alarm. Your phone stores a lot of files. Photographs, Internet history, and app information are kept on its chips. Deleting them and returning the phone to factory settings isn’t enough. No data purge is comprehensive enough for those trained to locate hidden files. Those who search out old phones for sales can easily access old passwords, private files, and financial information.

The only way to guarantee your information is gone for good is through the complete and utter destruction of your phone. It doesn’t matter how good an individual is with gadgets; a shredded motherboard is impossible to read. Our electronic data services ensure that there’s nothing left to find once it passes through our NAID-approved mobile shredders. The blades that make up our shredders will pulverize your smartphone, as well as any other gadget you want destroyed. We take on the GTA’s obsolete computers, CD-ROMs, hard drives, memory sticks, and other electronics with ease, as we can destroy these items as easily as the paper we shred. And just like the paper files that pass through our shredders, we can recycle the leftover parts of your electronics.

A smartphone may open you up to new risks. But – in our opinion – they’re worth it for all that they do to improve the quality of your life. As long as you’re careful with how you use it, you won’t have to worry about the consequences of losing your phone and sharing private information. So create a password for your phone and start reading up on the apps you use before you download them. And don’t forget to call us to set up a shredding appointment for all of your obsolete devices.

Add comment August 29th, 2016

Identity Theft: What to Do When it Happens

Despite it being our mission to provide document destruction services to everyone in the GTA, we simply can’t help everyone. Misinformation is our biggest hurdle. People simply aren’t aware that they need to protect their personal information (PI) when they dispose of it. Without knowing any better, they can accidentally share private details by throwing out files and obsolete electronics. It doesn’t always result in identity theft or fraud. But all it takes is for the right person to find your information before you’re dealing with the personal and financial consequences of a breach of PI.

Until we get the word out to all of the GTA and change everyone’s disposal methods, identity theft will happen. When it does, it’s in your best interest to start the recovery process as soon as you’ve realized it’s happened. It’s more frustrating and time consuming than you’d think, which is why we’ve developed a convenient guide on what to do should you suspect your PI has been stolen.

Make a Report
Your number one priority is to alert the authorities about the theft. This is an essential step should you ever need to prove to any financial institutions or creditors that a crime has been committed, so be sure to file a report right away. Once you’ve made your report, you can contact your bank and other financial organizations. Chances are your bank has already noticed unusual activity on your account, as they’ve created special algorithms to analyze your buying patterns. If they haven’t noticed any suspicious activity, you’ll want to clarify which purchases were made without your authorization. They’ll also be able to cancel any credit card accounts that have been compromised before flagging your account.

Notify the Government
Once you’ve alerted the authorities and banks about the situation, you’ll have prevented any more additional charges from being made in your name; however, you shouldn’t stop there. If your Social Insurance Number (SIN) was involved in the breach, your name may be used to create fraudulent identities. It’s important that you get in touch with Service Canada to inform them of your stolen PI. They’ll be able to reissue both federal and provincial identification, like your Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) card and your SIN card. Often identity thieves will open up credit accounts under your name and have the cards sent to a new address. We suggest alerting Canada Post about your situation too and making a formal address update to ensure no mail is redirected inappropriately.

Speak with a Credit Bureau
Your next step is to monitor your credit. You can work in conjunction with one of the country’s top crediting bureaus (such as Equifax, for example) to examine your ongoing credit activity. With their help, you’ll be able to see any additional fraudulent accounts open in your name that you weren’t aware of. We also recommend you apply a fraud warning on your account. This flag will stay on your account for six years, and it will warn lenders that your poor credit score is due to fraud.

It may take some time to get through this entire list. It may also take a lot of will power to work with the various organizations, creditors, and institutions necessary to flag, cancel, and monitor your accounts. Comparatively, the effort it takes to prevent identity theft is negligible. You only need to pick up the phone and speak with one of our representatives to schedule an appointment . Our mobile shredders will arrive at your house or place of business, where we’ll destroy your files and electronics using the latest NAID-approved techniques. Our shredders are equipped with sharp, complex blades that can completely demolish the paper and devices that hold your PI. Thieves wouldn’t be able to retrieve this information even if given the opportunity to go through this waste. Of course, they won’t because we immediately deliver these items to a secure recycling facility.

When you schedule our document destruction services, you remove the opportunity for thieves to come across and use your PI. So think about how you dispose of your paper and electronics. If they store confidential information like your contact details, account numbers, passwords, and other financial material, they can’t be thrown out with the rest of the trash. They need the guarantee of destruction that only we can provide.

Add comment August 22nd, 2016

Electronic Data Services: An Eco-Friendly Solution to the World’s E-Waste Problem

Over the last few years, the push to go paperless has been less a gentle touch than a definite shove towards a greener, digital future. You’ll have felt its effects in many aspects of your life: you’re charged extra by your cell phone company if you want paper bills, your bank sends your financial statements via email, and mail carriers ask for a digital signature before they hand over a parcel. For a growing number of people, the need to write on a piece of paper with a pen is slowly becoming obsolete. Instead, they use their phone, tablet, or computer when they need to write lists, leave messages, or even complete their taxes!

Paper consumption has a significant impact on the environment, so limiting our use of paper is the step in the right direction. It takes a monumental amount of water and electricity to produce the average paper product – an end product that usually ends up taking valuable space in landfills around the world. This growing paperless trend should be the step in the right direction. The less paper we use, the less energy and landfill space is wasted. Right? Unfortunately, the answer is a little more complicated than a simple yes or no.

While we reduce paper waste through green paperless initiatives, we’ve created a new kind of trash that’s threatening our environment. E-waste has become a worldwide concern for many environmentalists. It consists of any old device that ends up being thrown out and can include anything like your old cell phone, a burnt out hard drive, or an obsolete desktop computer. According to a recent study completed by the Population Reference Bureau, approximately 40 million tonnes of e-waste is discarded each year. The majority of it never finds itself in the landfills across the developed world. Anywhere from 50 – 80% of the world’s global output is illegally recycled in developing countries like Vietnam, Pakistan, China, and India.

The term recycled is used very loosely here. Unlike the strict laws regulating recycling programs here in our own backyard (and the very same ones we abide by when we offer our guarantee of recycling) there are no governing bodies controlling the recycling processes in these countries. Their methods can range from anywhere from burning to simply dismantling the devices and storing them in people’s literal backyards.

Due to the chemicals and metals used in these products, these rudimentary techniques result in unspeakable air, water, and soil pollution. Discarded computers are replete with copper and computer chips and when they’re burned they release hydrocarbons, brominated dioxins, and other heavy metals into the air. Older televisions and monitors contain cathode ray tubes which contain lead and barium that have been linked to the contamination of ground water in nearby communities. One landfill in particular, the Guiyu of Southeast China, has released toxic particles into Pearl River Delta Region. It’s the largest e-waste recycling plant in the world and is responsible for contaminating the soil and therefore crops of an area that contains 45 million people, many of whom now suffer from environment-related health concerns.

There’s also a human element. Many of the illicit recycling plants in the developing world force poor labourers in the surrounding areas to work for pitifully low wages while working with these hazardous materials. With little to no worker’s rights or workplace safety, these labourers are under direct threat every day they go to work.

The health and environmental impact of e-waste is a cause for concern, which is why we need to be careful about how we dispose of our obsolete devices here in the GTA. Don’t drop off your old computers and cell phones to recycling drives organized by your community. Without knowing how and where they dispose of these items, you could very well be contributing to this global issue.

When you need to recycle your old devices, turn to a program that you can trust. Our electronic data services first destroy the hard drives, CD-ROMs, and other materials you need disposed. Once destroyed, we deliver its remnants to a secure recycling plant in the GTA which abides by the provincial and federal laws regarding safe practices. To learn more about how we plan on recycling your electronics, give us a call. One of our representatives will be happy to clarify our plan and put you down for a pickup.

You may use your phones, laptops, and tablets to do more now than ever, but you don’t need to add pollution to the list of its abilities. Make sure you get them shredded using our mobile shredders. It’s the only way you can ensure the important data they store is properly destroyed and recycled the right way.

Add comment August 16th, 2016

Stay on top of Changes to the Personal Health Information Protection Act

Over two months ago, the Ontario legislature passed a third reading of the Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA). It resulted in amendments meant to improve the accountability and transparency of the healthcare system, including changes to the penalties for privacy breaches. Anyone working in the healthcare industry would do well by reviewing these revisions, ensuring their method of collecting, storing, and disposing of Personal Health Information (PHI) is within accordance to the amended act.

PHIPA is still a relatively young bill, having only been introduced in May of 2004. Since then, it has regulated the way healthcare workers can collect, use, disclose, and dispose of PHI. Under this bill, PHI means any data as it relates to a patient’s past, current, or future medical files. It’s an umbrella term that encompasses a considerable amount of information. PHI is deemed anything used by a healthcare worker to identify or treat a patient, including family medical histories, prescriptions, hospital records, and lab test results.

The original bill outlined clear strategies on how to collect and record PHI. Physical files should be locked in filing cabinets in rooms with restricted access, while digital records should be protected by passwords, encryption, and firewalls. Only those who have been properly trained and authorized to handle these documents should have access to the rooms and computers used to store them. Once obsolete, these records follow similarly controlled methods of disposal. In order to protect outdated and unnecessary PHI, PHIPA requires the complete and utter destruction of both physical and digital copies.

These basic features of PHIPA have not changed in the latest reading, but the minor modifications have improved the transparency of the bill in hopes of strengthening patient privacy. Firstly, it’s now mandatory for healthcare organizations to report any breaches of privacy to the Information and Privacy Commissioner. Changes also include removing time restrictions on prosecutions, eliminating the need to start prosecutions within 6 months of the breach. Perhaps the most important amendment – from healthcare professionals’ perspectives – is the increase in fines for those individuals and organizations found guilty of breaking PHIPA. Nearly doubling in amount, these penalties can range from $50,000 – $100,000 for individuals and $250,000 – $500,000 for organizations or businesses.

It would be a shame to be fined half a million dollars over something so easily preventable. Employee screening and training is a critical step in safeguarding the chain of custody and shouldn’t be overlooked. Neither should mobile shredding services. Simply by scheduling regular pickups of paper medical files and obsolete electronics, the healthcare industry can avoid disposing of PHI incorrectly, saving themselves from prosecution and hefty fines.

Our shredding services are performed by highly vetted individuals, who follow NAID-certified processes to ensure security at every stage. From collection to destruction and finally recycling, the documents and devices are properly secured until our shredding representatives can provide twin guarantees of destruction and recycling.

PHIPA applies to far more professionals than just healthcare providers like doctors and nurses. Anyone working within the industry must abide by this law, including freelance caregivers, pharmacists, lab technicians, paramedics, physiotherapists, naturopaths, and mental health care workers. That’s a huge range of professionals who need help ensuring they stay within the letter of the law. Whether you’re a self-employed massage therapist or a director of a medical laboratory, your business needs professional shredding services. Luckily for you, we service the entire healthcare industry with dependable shredding, and you need only call or send off a request form to schedule your first appointment.

Add comment July 25th, 2016

Plan a Safe Summer Getaway

Add comment July 18th, 2016

Fast Food Fraud

We all know fast food isn’t good for us, but now we have an entirely new reason to second guess a trip through the drive-thru. Earlier this year the hamburger chain, Wendy’s, reported what they’re calling ‘unusual activity’ on credit cards used at their restaurants located in the US. Now, several months onwards, the security firm hired to investigate the claims have come up with some answers – but not nearly enough.

The slow process is partly due to the fact that many of the restaurants are owned by independent franchisees. Wendy’s is America’s 5th largest fast food restaurant in terms of sales, and it has approximately 5,800 franchise locations across North America. According to their investigation, fewer than 300 of those restaurants were targeted in a malware attack that compromised the point of sale (POS) system. The breach started sometime late last year, and some financial institutions have recorded continued fraud reports on affected accounts as late as April of 2016.

Though no reports of how many customers affected by the breach have been published, Wendy’s confirms the malware has been disabled and removed from the corrupted POS. They are currently working with its security firm, federal law enforcement, and credit card companies in order to locate the source of the malware and complete their investigation.

If it concludes anything like Target’s credit card breach, then Wendy’s could be looking at a hefty fine in reparations totalling somewhere in the millions. Recall American Thanksgiving of 2013, when malware was installed in Target’s POS and stole 40 million payment card numbers and 70 million customer records that included contact details. Since then the company has been sentenced to repay $19 million to banks.

Many of us think nothing of heading out for lunch and tapping our credit cards to pay for our meal. Unfortunately, attacks targeting large-chain businesses are on the rise. While there’s no way of knowing which company’s POS is infected before you visit, there are ways of mitigating – if not preventing – the effects of identity fraud. You should be aware of any of the accounts under your name, especially the ones you use on a daily basis at places like fast food restaurants or department stores. When you keep an eye on the transactions of these accounts, you can quickly identity fraudulent charges and alert your bank of any unusual activity before it gets too serious.

Another way to protect yourself from possible attacks is by limiting the access you allow to your personal information – both digitally and physically. For many of us, the Internet has replaced a lot of services that, in the past, we would have obtained in-person at a brick and mortar store or organization. Though it’s made life easier now that we can do everything from banking or ordering food online, it’s also made it more difficult to safeguard our personal information. Be aware of the websites that you frequent and only share your contact and financial information to trusted services with verified sites and advanced firewalls.

For those services with enduring physical copies of your transactions – things like taxes, utility bills, and any other receipt or piece of mail that contains account numbers and contact details – you should be equally vigilant. Store those records that you need to keep in a safe place within your home and don’t just throw away those documents you want to get rid of. Any piece of paper with your personal information on it should be properly disposed of through our secured mobile shredding service. Our mobile shredding trucks will incinerate these papers so that any information is impossible to recover.

We like to think of our shredding service as a part of any healthy information diet. We can’t help but visit the Wendy’s of the world every once in a while, but if you take the appropriate steps to protecting your identity’s health, these fast food trips won’t cause any undue harm. Stay on top of your transactions and make sure to call us to schedule your document shredding appointment today.

Add comment July 12th, 2016

Strengthen the Chain of Custody

You don’t have to be in the legal field to appreciate the need for a secure chain of custody. The way you and your business obtains, records, shares, and disposes of paper and electronic documents is important, regardless of your industry. Implementing fortified policies that secure physical and digital data is one of the best measures you can take to prevent fraud, but it isn’t the only way to protect your confidential material. A sound network security deters hackers from preying on your organization, but it does nothing to prevent something as simple as human error from threatening your company.

You can have the most sophisticated system put in place to safeguard your files, but they’re only effective when all of your employees can follow them. A simple mistake, whether through malice or ignorance, can negate the intricate physical and technological securities you have. You may have the utmost faith in your employees, but employee negligence is the one of the number one causes of fraud. According to the Ponemon Institute, over 80% of all corporate data breaches were due to human error. A fact confirmed by the Identity Theft Resource Centre (ITRC) and the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, both of which presented similar findings through independent studies. All it takes is an accidental email, a misplaced company phone, or mishandled files, and all of your elaborate precautions can be for naught.

When people are the weakest link in your chain of custody, it’s important that you invest in regular training. A one-time afternoon spent going over policies and procedures isn’t enough; people will eventually forget one or all of the steps involved in securing data and they’ll jeopardize the company when they do.

Next to education, limiting access to confidential material to top personnel only is another way you can secure the lines of information. Minimize contact by handing over the destruction of sensitive paper and digital files to a service that specializes in safe methods of removal.

As a NAID certified shredding service, we’re well-informed of the best ways to dispose of vulnerable material. We supply your office with locked containers to collect the paper and electronics that you need destroyed. These sealed bins, boxes, or bags can’t be accessed by anyone but our bonded, insured, and uniformed personnel, thus reducing the number of people who have the ability to read or retrieve any discarded information. Once these containers are full, our shredding experts will come to you, and they’ll shred your collected material on-site – after which they’ll deliver the destroyed contents to a secured recycling facility. There are no intermediaries or other employees involved in any of these steps; just our small group of dependable representatives.

When you limit the number of people who have access to important information, you’re strengthening the security policies that you put in place. Consider the lengthy chain of custody you currently have. If it involves far too many employees, give us a call. We can set up a regular pick-up for shredding according to your schedule. Whether that’s weekly, monthly, or something other arrangement, we’ll find a schedule that fits with your needs. You only have to pick up the phone!

Add comment June 21st, 2016

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