Policy to wipe old state computers is working


​CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A random audit of state computers up for sale through the Surplus Property division found that an initiative to assure that all hard drives are wiped clean is working, a report released Tuesday shows.

Chief Technology Officer Kyle Schafer told a legislative interim committee that the policy was adopted in 2006, after spot-checks of computers sent to Surplus Property found many contained confidential and personal data on their hard drives. "What we found on these machines was almost shocking," Schafer told the Joint Committee on Technology. "They were sold over the years with a lot of information still on these machines." He said the office halted sales of surplus computers until a policy was put in place to assure that all "retired" computers had data such as personal health information, Social Security numbers, and credit card information erased from their hard drives. Schafer said the policy includes a fail-safe provision of having an Office of Technology staffer on site full-time at the Surplus Property warehouse to verify that all computers have been "wiped" of all data.

About 3,000 personal computers and laptops are sent to Surplus Property each year. Schafer said the computers sell at surplus auctions for "pennies on the dollar," generally $20 to $30 per machine. He said bills have been introduced in the Legislature to require that retired computers be refurbished for donation to schools and to low-income families, but none have passed. Most computers sent to Surplus Property are too old and outdated to refurbish, he said. "There's a considerably small number that we couldn't do anything with, but sell them at public auction," he said.

Also Tuesday, committee members were updated on plans to have House floor sessions and committee meetings broadcast live to the public on the Legislature's Web page. Legislative Manager Aaron Allred said staffers are testing the Webcast technology, which should be ready for the start of the 2010 regular session next month. Besides floor sessions, audio of all meetings in the House Finance, Judiciary, Government Organization, and Education committee rooms will be broadcast. The Web site's bandwidth should be able to handle several thousand users at any given time, which Allred said should be adequate -- barring debate over some extremely interesting or controversial issue. "If, all of a sudden we've got a bill where 20,000 people want to listen in, then we'd be overwhelmed," he said.


Phil Kabler