- The Washington Times - Monday, August 4, 2008

COLUMN:

As the price of gas stays high, markets go global and business software evolves, more and more employees are plugging in away from the office.

While telecommuting may save time and money, it also puts corporate data at risk - a reality that resurfaces every time a government laptop gets stolen.

Employees often use personal devices, sometimes without encryption, over unsecured wireless networks. Some organizations don’t have limits downloading software or using peer-to-peer applications. There’s always the danger of simply misplacing the laptop, memory stick or other device.

More than 46 million people will work from home at least one day a week by the end of 2012, according to a Gartner Inc. report. But in a survey of 73 companies released last week, the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) and Ernst & Young found that only half of organizations have formal policies and training regarding data security when telecommuting.

“Most of the security and privacy risks associated with telecommuting are already known,” said Ari Schwartz, a vice president of CDT. “In a lot of those cases, those risks can be addressed if companies would simply put more emphasis on the procedures and policies they already have in place.”

Among the survey’s recommendations: Develop data security policies that are specific to teleworking; credential employees based on risk; provide guidance on use and disposal of paper records; conduct house visits for full-time telecommuters; prohibit processing and storing information on a home computer and provide encryption tools.

LG recycles

LG Electronics on Friday announced a nationwide recycling program for its old TVs and other electronics products, joining Sony as the only manufacturers with a free, national take-back program.

The news came much to the delight of environmental advocates who warn of an upcoming toxic onslaught of discarded analog TV sets when the country transitions from analog to digital signals. Electronic waste is toxic, containing heavy metals such as mercury and lead, as well as flame retardants that give off harmful fumes when burned.

The ingredients accumulate in human tissue over time, so exposure to even small amounts can be dangerous. Poisoning from mercury and lead risks long-term health effects including brain damage, respiratory infections and birth defects, and dioxins from burning electronics can disrupt hormone levels, damage the immune system and may cause cancer, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The U.S. generated as much as 2.2 million tons of electronic waste in 2005, according to EPA estimates. Of that amount, at least 1.9 million tons were discarded in landfills.

Moreover, almost all of the electronic waste collected for recycling actually ends up in scrap yards in developing countries, according to the Electronics TakeBack Coalition, a network of nonprofits focused on recycling and environmentally friendly design in the electronics industry.

E-mail krowland@washingtontimes.com.

Also, click here to visit her blog, “Tech Zoo.”

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