Disposal of Electronic Devices

Issued Date
June 25, 2013
Homes and Community Renewal - Division of Housing and Community Renewal


To determine if surplus electronic devices approved for sale by New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (Division) are permanently cleaned of all data, including personal, private, and sensitive information. The audit covers the period of June 1, 2012 through March 13, 2013.


New York State Policy requires all State entities to establish formal procedures to address the risk that personal, private, or sensitive information (PPSI) may be improperly disclosed. One way information can be compromised is through careless disposal of electronic devices. Agencies may dispose of electronic devices on their own; however, the Office of General Services (OGS) provides this service for many State agencies, including the Division. Agencies are required to remove all information prior to disposal and, if sending them to OGS, to certify in writing that the devices no longer contain any retrievable information.

Key Findings

  • We tested a total of 752 electronic devices at both the Albany and the New York City offices. In Albany, two devices still contained general agency information and personal pictures, but none contained PPSI. In New York City, 13 hard drives showed indications that they still contained data. We did not forensically examine their content due to technical issues that made it impractical to apply modern forensic software tools against their older technology. Instead, we returned these drives to Division staff so they could be properly wiped of data.
  • We were unable to locate 17 computer hard drives that had already been removed from computers and were scheduled for shredding. The Division had no record of what information may have been on these missing drives and it is unclear whether they had been stolen, reused, or simply misplaced.
  • We also could not locate 18 servers listed on the inventory records. Subsequently, the Division provided documentation showing it had sold 24 servers about 18 months earlier. However, the documentation did not include asset numbers and, therefore, provided only limited assurance that these were the same devices still listed on the inventory records.
  • We also could not locate eight other devices listed on inventory records, and found one device recorded as surplus that was actually still in use.

Key Recommendations

  • Implement the Office of General Services' recently released policy and procedure for removing memory components from surplus electronic devices.
  • Reinforce policies and procedures over the asset management system, including periodic physical inventories, to ensure that accurate records are maintained and assets are safeguarded.

Other Related Audit/Report of Interest

Office of General Services: Disposal of Electronic Devices (2012-S-4)

John Buyce

State Government Accountability Contact Information:
Audit Director: John Buyce
Phone: (518) 474-3271; Email: [email protected]
Address: Office of the State Comptroller; Division of State Government Accountability; 110 State Street, 11th Floor; Albany, NY 12236