Shredding for our future: a history of man’s struggle to create and destroy

Papyrus, bill of sale for a donkey.

Papyrus, bill of sale for a donkey.

They say that man is the animal that creates. I say that man is the animal that can create and will destroy. And sometimes a creation’s purpose could be destruction. This is the case with shredding machines.

The year was 2.560 B.C. when man in his desperate search for means of expression created papyrus. Before that his irresistible urge to express himself manifested mostly on cave walls or clay tablets or other difficult to impossible to shred mediums. Papyrus changed all of that. [1]

With the invention of papyrus, man felt for the first time in history the need to rip into pieces something that he created to imprint certain information. Why? Because for the first time in history, man could do it; Papyrus made possible such action.

This first papyrus shred to pieces could be of a painting or a poem gone horribly wrong. Or of symbols that articulated emotions or desires for the future. It could be a list of financial assets or a text of religious significance. The owner of the papyrus could have destroyed it. Or maybe it was a thief. Or it might even be a jealous wife or a loyal servant. We don’t know why or who did it but we can be certain that someone took the decision to destroy. There could be a reason for doing it or there could be no specific reason at all but it was done by someone.

And after the first man, there were many more that followed a similar course of action because they could do it. The Chinese discovered paper [2], and as centuries passed, humans kept finding new reasons to destroy.

Early wooden printing press, 1568

Early wooden printing press, 1568

Gutenberg [3] discovered the printing machine and the mass paper media was born. Reading was not anymore a privilege of the aristocracy.

In 1806 a man called Henry Fourdinier created the Fourdinier machine. These were steam-driven papermaking machines that could make paper with fibres from wood pulp. Great quantities of paper could be made in great speed. [4]

By the 20th century paper was an everyday commodity, part of every human activity. Common people used it, companies used it, and government agencies used it too.

And then, in 1909, almost 6.000 years after the invention of papyrus, 103 years after the creation of the Fourdinier machine, a man from the United Stated of America called Abbot Augustus Low had a simple but glorious idea. In a world dominated by paper, he had a simple idea. He thought: “What if I created a machine that shreds paper?” And thus, he filed a patent for what he called a “waste – paper receptable”. The first shredding machine came into existence. A creation meant to destroy. It could change the course of history. It did!

Papermaking machine

Papermaking machine

According to him, his invention related “to the provision of improved means for disposing of waste paper and is designed more particularly for use in offices and other places where not only the collection and storage of waste paper is desirable, but also its cancellation or mutilation in such manner as to render it unavailable or unintelligible for re-use or for information”.

The invention consisted “of a receptacle having a cutting or cancelling device interposed between it and a receiving hopper, whereby the papers are disintegrated and rendered useless as such before they enter the body of the receptacle, in which latter the fragments are stored temporarily in a suitable bag to be removed from time to time for the disposition of the waste”.

Waste Paper Receptacle, 1909

Waste Paper Receptacle, 1909

Augustus didn’t just invent the device but knew of the advantages it could hold for banks and other organizations “where the practical destruction of correspondence, memoranda, liquidated bonds, accounts, books, and the like is a desideratum […] since the particles of paper are useless for identification, information, or fraudulent purposes of any character” [5]

However, not many sh(a)red his enthusiasm. And as it is often the case with all those we come to admire as genius, it took society quite a long time to understand the necessity of such a device. [6]

In reality, there was no demand for a paper shredder; no market. And how could there be such a demand when most of the people didn’t feel the need to shred their documents using a device. And while it was probable that US intelligence agencies might have understood its importance the simple fact is that the concept of identity theft or data protection was not very common; not common enough for the “common people”. [7]

Now, all this has changed. In the 21st century, “information destruction” is a multi-billion business and shredding machines are at the centre of it.

Shredding machines have evolved and are becoming more and more sophisticated. They will destroy from paper to DVDs and CDS or hard drives. Anything that can hold data of any kind can be destroyed and recycled. [8]

Shredding Machine

Shredding Machine

Everyone is using them. From small offices to big corporations, from government agencies, to schools and hospitals; in some countries it has become a requirement of the law to shred specific documents using shredding machines. [9]

Companies make shredding machines and sell them. Other companies are going mobile, arriving at an organization’s premises with trucks equipped with machines that chew and spit piles of paper. They destroy data that are not meant to be seen by the general public, data that should not fall in the wrong hands. Doctors, spies, everyone uses them.

From the papyrus to the computer and the world of internet, creation goes hand in hand with destruction. In reality, evolution was also the evolution of the means of destruction; they seem somehow interrelated, as if they complement each other. It is human somehow. This is how we evolve; this is how we express ourselves more effectively. We create paper to destroy it; we share information to delete it; we decide what to keep; we shred for our future. We evolve.

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papyrus
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ts%27ai_Lun
  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johannes_Gutenberg
  4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Fourdrinier
  5. http://www.google.com/patents/US929960?dq=ininventor:%22ABBOT+AUGUSTUS+LOW%22
  6. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abbot_Augustus_Low
  7. http://www.foxnews.com/tech/2013/06/26/declassified-govt-report-details-decades-nsa-computer-spying/
  8. http://www.ironmountain.co.uk/services/secure-shredding
  9. http://www.cpni.gov.uk/Documents/Publications/2013/2013062-secure-destruction-sensitive-information.pdf
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Preserving Digitally the World’s Historical Sites

Non-profit organization CyArk has launched a very ambitious and essential project. The group aims to digitally preserve the world’s most spectacular historical sites. It will create 3D backups of historical sites in a project that aims to… eternity!

Read More..

Winners write history: from Hosni Mubarak’s regime, to the Stasi and the Nazis, a history of shredding

 Sir Winston Churchill, 1942

Sir Winston Churchill, 1942

Sometimes I wonder, how much do we really know about past events?

It was Winston Churchill  who said: “History will be kind to me for I intent to write it”.

Yes, history was kind to him. He was among the protagonists of a world war that had cost the lives of many millions of innocent people. He, as a part of the winning side, made history. And history is favorable to the winners. They write it.

Different accounts can come to dominate in different periods of time or in different societies; depending on how free a society is, these accounts can be more or less accurate to the events in question.

Power struggles within societies can question the present social order. New agendas would rise that could question old dominant discourses and thus lead to a retelling of historical events bringing forward accounts, events and details that had been cast aside. It has happened before. [1]

But history cannot be objective. It is the story as it is told by the winners. It doesn’t have to be the “truth”. The truth is that half of the “facts” we think we know are merely fictions, pieces put together to create convenient and powerful stories; myths that support a certain scheme of things, a dominant power/knowledge system. [2] From what we have been taught in schools to the everyday news we read in the newspapers or the live coverage of important events on our television screens: all past is history, all present is history as well..

We can’t avoid it. We cannot avoid or dismiss history; choices of what should be kept and what we should forget. And yet, history is always on the making. And sometimes winners will become losers. History will be rewritten. Then, as regimes fall, and the dominant discourse and its surrounding myths collapse all kinds of evidence can rise into the surface; facts of the real nature of regimes that would otherwise be forgotten or would exist just for the eyes of the privileged few.

Egyptian State Security kept files on citizens and activists.

Egyptian State Security kept files on citizens.

This is the case with Egypt. On March the 5th of 2011 thousands of Egyptians stormed the headquarters of the State Security Police known as Amn Al – Dawla. Among the people of Egypt this is the “Capital of Hell”. They wanted to halt any effort by allies of the ex-President Hosni Mubarak’s regime to destroy police and intelligence documents of great value. Demonstrators succeeded to get hold of thousands of records providing evidence that there was a wide-reaching campaign of surveillance, torture and secret detention. Evidence was found that proved that media owners were on the payroll of the secret police. Documents existed that described extreme violations of human rights. However, protestors also found mountains of shredded or burned documents on the spot. [3]

In East Germany, during the Peaceful Revolution of 1989 – a series of political demonstrations against the regime of the GDR (German Democratic Republic) – Stasi’s offices were stormed by protesters. Stazi existed almost for 40 years. But the amount of agents and informers was such that the files they amassed had filled more than 60 miles of shelving. They had huge special shredding machines that could shred hundreds of meters of files. They worked day and night for more than three months. At the end, when they finally abandoned their posts, more than 16.000 sacks of shredded files were found which accounts just for 5% of the most important documents.

According to Karina Juengert – an archivist who has devoted her life in piecing together shredded documents of her nation’s past – the effort to reconstruct those destroyed documents is an effort to reconstruct a nation’s “shredded” history: “Nobody is going to spend time and energy tearing up documents that have no importance. So the work we are doing is, yes, of absolute importance“. [4]

From left to right: Neville Chamberlain, Édouard Daladier, Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, and Galeazzo Ciano.

From left to right: Neville Chamberlain, Édouard Daladier, Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, and Galeazzo Ciano.

In Nazi Germany they did not have nowadays technology of paper shredders. If they had, so many of the evidence of what the Third Reich had done or did plan to do would have been lost. With no evidence of the events many war criminals would have walked away free still advocating their ideas of hatred, denying the horror of their actions. Yes, it is true, neo-nazis still deny the Holocaust, and the existence of death camps, the experiments on humans, the millions of deaths. But if documents were shredded, the victory of the Allied forces would not be so clear. Without evidence, history would have been more kind to the Nazis. Even nowadays, they try to rewrite history by destroying documents; assistance comes from unexpected places.  [5] 

History is connected with documents. And there are times when the most secure thing to do is to shred them before they are used for harmful purposes. You know, it doesn’t have to be regimes or secret agencies. This is also the case with companies or organizations, public or private, which deal with credit reports or other documents containing sensitive consumer information such as patients’ records. [6]

Documents of this nature are a vital part of the personal history of individuals that no agency or company should keep copies off. Information of this kind in the wrong hands can be used to blackmail or to deny access to services, they can even prove valuable for identity theft purposes. [7] In that sense, shredding is a procedure of essential importance for citizens and businesses alike.

Sorting & Shredding Room

Sorting & Shredding Room, 1901

In fact, this is not just an ethical issue. Under the Data Protection Directive, it becomes a requirement of the law to destroy any documents that contain sensitive information. According to the Directive, data – processing systems should be designed to serve man; “whereas they must, whatever the nationality or residence of natural persons, respect their fundamental rights and freedoms, notably the right to privacy, and contribute to economic and social progress, trade expansion and the well-being of individuals” [8]

Failure to comply may lead to proceedings against the data controller, large fines or financial compensation to the data subject. The Directive – after the NSA leaks – will become stricter. [9]

Shredding machines is the most secure and common tool that people use to destroy sensitive documents. Shredding has been used to protect regimes as it is used to protect citizens. In the end, history is not definite; it can be kind to us as long as we respect the laws and make good use of the tools we have in hand. Shredding machines is such a tool. [10]

  1. http://www.rcgfrfi.easynet.co.uk/ratb/cuba/cuba_rev.htm
  2. https://www.msu.edu/~comertod/courses/foucault.htm
  3. http://nsarchive.wordpress.com/2011/03/10/egyptians-seize-secret-police-files/
  4. http://www.npr.org/2012/10/08/162369606/piecing-together-the-worlds-largest-jigsaw-puzzle
  5. http://www.writing.upenn.edu/~afilreis/Holocaust/swiss-shredding.html
  6. http://www.frostbrowntodd.com/resources-512.html
  7. http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/08/09/us-greece-tax-theft-idUSBRE9780QX20130809
  8. http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:31995L0046:en:HTML
  9. http://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=958ca7da-9c49-4510-9a0f-7626e2197069
  10. http://www.ironmountain.co.uk/services/secure-shredding

Edward Snowden: revealing the ongoing war on data that no one wants to know

report-nicaragua-willing-to-give-asylum-to-edward-snowden

It all started with a young man called Edward Joseph Snowden. A former CIA employee and NSA contractor who publicized many top – secret US and British government mass surveillance programs such as the PRISM, Tempora and Xkeystore.

Some call him a hero, others call him a traitor. The undeniable truth is that he is responsible for the most significant leak in US history.

According to his own words his sole motive was “to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them”. Edward Snowden didn’t want the story to be about him. He wanted it to be: “about what the US government is doing… about what kind of world we want to live in”.

The world in shock

Now, the whole world is in shock. Leaders of great nations also expressed their shock. As if this somehow makes them innocent. Angela Merkel puts a sad face and shows her mobile phone. Now look at me, she might had said, I am just like you: “bad spies tapped my phone too”.  “This should not be done among allies”, she complains. She just didn’t expect it. It was such s shock.

I suppose she didn’t know that when a leader of one of the greatest nations of the world uses an unsecured cellphone, there is a high probability that the NSA or any other agency of any country might try to intercept it.

But if Angela Merkel showing her mobile phone with a sad face raises questions, it all becomes quite preposterous when French political leaders express their “deep shock” about the extent of monitoring taking place in their country by US intelligence services.

“France is the evil empire”

France, according to the CEO of a top German satellite manufacturer “is the evil empire, stealing technology and Germany knows this”.

French secret agencies don’t need the US to spy on their citizens. They can do it on their own without help from “outsiders”. According to a revealing article by “Le Monde” the French foreign intelligence service DGSE “systematically collects the electromagnetic signals from computers and phones in France, as well as the exchange [of data] between France and abroad.” The newspaper notes that: “Politicians are perfectly aware of it, but secrecy is the rule”.  I am deeply shocked.

The fact is that French intelligence budget was increased by 9 percent for 1992 — and this was the period just after the end of the Cold War.

The Germans do it. As Hans – Georg Wieck, the former CEO of the German foreign intelligence service BND stated, there was no surprise at the extent of internet surveillance by British and US intelligence agencies. These are “the natural, daily bread of the secret services”—including the BND.

Everyone spies

China, South Korea, Japan, also do it.

Even Canada does it; The Canadian Secret Agency spied on the Brazilian mining and energy ministry. Then they met in Ottawa with corporations that have interests in Brazil and briefed them on everything they had learnt. You see, there are more than 40 Canadian companies involved in Brazil’s mining sector. The stakes are high.

It is not even about terrorism or security anymore. It is about economy and corporations.

After the end of the Cold War it was clear that international rivalry would be economic rather than political – military. Consequently, in the US, the Clinton administration decided to establish the National Economic Council. From that moment after economic issues where of the same importance as national security issues. Even a “war room” was established by the Commerce Department.

This change had an effect on US intelligence agencies. International trade and competitiveness was the new battlefield. CIA’s director-designate R. James Woolsey said in 1993 that economic intelligence has become “the hottest current topic in intelligence policy”.

Economic security similar to military security

Other great nations followed similar paths. For all of them economic security is similar to military security. If many things were permitted towards achieving traditional security the same applied to economic security.

Pierre Marion, the former director of DGSE, the French equivalent of the CIA described France as a notorious economic spy: “We are really allied. But in the economic competition, in the technological competition, we are competitors; we are not allied.” For him, it was natural that the US will receive the most attention from intelligence services: “America has the most technical information of relevance. It is easily accessible.”

Stansfield Turned, intelligence director during the Carter administration had a similar view: “If economic strength should be now recognized as a vital component of national security, parallel with military power, why should America be concerned about stealing and employing economic secrets?”

Nobody knows anything

The entire world is doing it and yet no one seems to know anything about it.

Some say that all this is too obviously hypocritical, statements meant for public opinion. Noone really wants the spying “monster” killed because they raised it.

And it is true, if the French and German governments cared so much about their citizens learning that their privacy and data are being systematically assaulted and used without their consent wouldn’t it make sense that their government would be the first to offer asylum to the person who made everything visible? Instead, they denied him of any support; they didn’t listen to his pleas for protection of his basic political rights. They were even hostile. It was like they tried to stop him from leaking more secrets.

Edward Snowden as a villain

Many believe that the open outrage expressed by nations against NSA practices was really an outrage towards the person who revealed all their secrets and the media who made them public. Something larger was in stake..

Governments already knew, citizens didn’t; They “didn’t have to know”.

Edward Snowden made evident that there is a whole system based on economic espionage and data collection. It takes place in unprecedented levels. And this is “business as usual”.

Revising the 1995 data protection law

From this point of view the discussion opened by the revelations about the NSA surveillance programs around the necessity of a revision of the 1995 data protection law in the European Union reflecting the changing nature of internet usage should be seen as part of an ongoing economic war that has become central for the security of nations after the end of the Cold War. And it is more than clear that in our times of crisis data is more important than ever. It can be decisive.

“We have to accept that apparently, the NSA is monitoring the entire global telecommunications goings-on. We have to achieve a political, international agreement that this is unacceptable and has to be limited,” said Alexander Dix, Berlin Commissioner for Data Protection. “This applies to other intelligence [bureaus] as well, not only the American ones”.

http://rt.com/news/data-protection-rules-eu-491/

100 million euro fines for breaching data protection

This measure if approved will force companies outside the EU such as Facebook, Yahoo and Google to comply with European data protection laws when they operate in Europe. Fines for breaching data protection rules could reach up to 100 million euros. In the new legislation prepared there is also a “right to erasure” clause that limits the access of internet companies to the private data of users.

The draft approved on October 21st – with a record-breaking 4,000 amendments – has elements that aim at winning over skeptical business interests with requirements for small and midsize organizations and businesses – as long as their central focus is not information processing – being much less than larger companies.

Complying with new requirements

With changes of such great scale taking place organizations of any size trust well – established companies on the sector of data protection to help them cope with new requirements.

Iron mountain is a company with a long history of high quality data protection services that are designed to mitigate risks in compliance with regulations that demand uniform processes and accountability.

It is not just a requirement of the law, it is a necessity. In a world where securing data is linked to the survival of businesses, institutions, even nations, no one has the right to pretend being shocked. It just won’t do it.

DerSpiegel – NSA Aftermath: German Firms Scramble To Boost Data Protection

General Keith Alexander, director of NSA, chief of CSS and commander of the U.S. Cyber Command, speaks during a hacker convention in Las Vegas

SPIEGEL ONLINE International Companies in Germany Scramble to Strengthen Data Protection Abilities NSA Aftermath: German Firms Scramble to Boost Data Protection By SPIEGEL Staff REUTERS German companies have long suspected China and Russia of trying to steal their secrets. But the NSA scandal has turned their attention west, forcing them to worry about prying American […]

Knowledge is power: Industrial espionage, data protection and the quest for meaning

There are people who suffer from a specific condition of the mind called hyperthymesia. It is a neurological condition where one cannot forget anything that has ever taken place in his life. The effect of such a condition is destructive because knowledge is based on forgetting.

Without this ability, we wouldn’t be able to make sense of anything since everything would be always present. Meaning comes through the choice of what needs to be remembered and what can and should be forgotten. Like when you bring in your mind the image of a forest, first, we need to forget about the details of all those single trees.

timthumb

If this is the condition of the human mind, what does this mean in a world based on data collection and management? Or, to pose the question in a different manner, if in order to create knowledge the human mind needs to forget, what data does an organization or a business needs to put aside? Should there be an expiration date, where after it passes, certain data collected loses meaning and has to be deleted or should we hold on to all data forever? Would this be meaningful? What needs to be protected?

The right management of data is power. The choices organizations make on what to keep and what to “forget” makes them more or less effective. What remains is all that gives meaning to their existence; valuable pieces of data which when combined produce knowledge.

Knowledge is Power. People know it, companies know it, nation states know it. In this context, certain data need to be protected just like certain data can be forgotten. It makes sense.

In a recent article from Der Spiegel, after the recent NSA scandal and the revelations of large scale data mining by the USA, the author claims that data protection and security has become an issue of even greater importance.

As noted in the article, executives in many companies in Germany have become increasingly nervous and have taken extreme defensive measures. Specific documents that were sent by email are now delivered in paper to the recipient. The only data that are still sent via email are those that have no real value and the company would have no issue posting publicly.

data_breach

It has become common knowledge among companies that they have to protect themselves from the eyes of competitors. Spies are everywhere.

They might be working for an intelligence agency or an industrial giant. They might be plain amateurs. What is clear though is that there is a secret war taking place in the web. Just like in real wars, there are armies of mercenaries waiting for the highest bidder to buy their services. Knowledge is power.

In Germany, the number of attacks every day is in the hundreds of thousands. The United Kingdom reports 120.000 attacks every day. Only in the state of Utah according to a report made by the chief information officer and executive director of the Utah Department of Technology Services there are more than 20.000.000 attacks per day, while in a most alarming news story, according to officials of the National Nuclear Security Administration, the agency in charge of U.S.A.’s nuclear weapons, reports their computer systems face millions of hacking attempts daily! The number of attacks increases by the day all over the world. It is well documented.

To secure your business’s data, in these conditions, is not an easy task. However, there are trained professionals that have proven themselves on the field of data protection. Companies that can give you a sense of security when it comes to insuring that your valuable pieces of data that give meaning to your organization’s existence and well being will not be lost. Companies that will help you manage effectively the increasing cost and complexity of data growth, of what to keep and what to “forget”. That will train your staff on critical elements of data protection.

Maybe this is the most crucial choice that you will have to make. The choice of the professional you will trust to help you fight most effectively a war of increasing importance; the war for knowledge.

And this is something you should not forget: this war is not a matter of choice.

Disaster Recovery and Why We Need it

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Will Your Data Survive A Disaster?

It would have certainly been absolutely great if we could have predicted all of the possible disasters. Life would have been much easier and comfortable; we wouldn’t have to be afraid of anything. Wait a minute, though; don’t you all agree that in that way life would have been something completely different from what it is now? I’m quite sure you would have agreed on this. And maybe you would have agreed that even though during our lives certain bad things happen we do love the fact that life is unpredictable… just like love is after all!

The unpredictable is an essential part of our human life; we learn how to cope with it as time goes by. Sometimes it’s hard and some other times it’s much easier; the fact remains that no one can have absolute control of his life. Eventually, things that we haven’t planned might occur and disrupt our peace and quiet; the important thing is to know how to prevent them in the future – if this is an option, that is…

A loss of a human life for example cannot be replaced by another; every human life is unique. The rule does not apply to things, though, whatever these might be. We might be able to replace what we have lost in a case of a fire even if it might take some time. Thing is, that there could be ways to prevent some disasters from taking place in the first place. Take for example the fire that occurred a few months earlier in Macomb County, Michigan, which destroyed the county’s servers and entire phone system. There was one thing missing that could limit down the terrible effects of this event and that was a backup data center.

It even sounds weird to my ears; in 2013 I simply cannot imagine that people leave in chance things as important as the proper functioning of a county’s daily operations. A backup data center could have left the county having to deal only with the damages of the building. They would have been sure at least that their data and all of their valuable records would have been safe. Some years earlier a data system failure caused the loss of the jail records of the county.

Nowadays, it goes without a saying that disaster recovery is more than essential for any company or business that wishes to do business in a serious and effective way. Check here http://ironmountain.co.uk/services/records-management-offsite for disaster recovery services by Iron Mountain, one of the leading companies on the field. Their services come as the longed-for answer to puzzling situations that we might confront ourselves with on a daily basis nowadays, in the full blossom of informational society.

What is more, according to reports the county was planning to build a new data center to replace the existing one. Nonetheless, a backup data center seems that it wasn’t in their plans, which surely indicate the fact that there is a strong need for essential changes on data management. Indeed, in the era of big data, there is no room for mistakes like this. The Macomb case should become an example on how things shouldn’t get done; we must always live and act according to our times!

When I was still a child, I honestly couldn’t have imagined that we would have lived in times where information is so much a critical issue. However, one would safely argue that information was always driving the world – as information is power. In our times, though, we are capable of preserving this information much more adequately in comparison to previous historical times.

Stay Connected & Productive

One can only dream on how history would have evolved if humans were once able to preserve their knowledge against time… the burning of the library of Alexandria simply meant that the world lost forever tons of information that could have possibly altered history as we know it. It is certainly very hopeful to think that we live in a world where such catastrophes could never happen again. The digital era which we live in made it easy for us to store and preserve unlimited amounts of data; the only thing left is for us to take advantage of what we have at our disposal…