Making Data Disappear

Company destroys devices carrying sensitive info, carves out a niche with government

By Justin George, The Baltimore Sun January 26, 2014

In a 20,000-square-foot warehouse, where visitors are required to trade in a driver's license for a visitor's badge, some of the nation's secrets are torn apart, reduced to sand or demagnetized until they are forever silent.

"We make things go away," said Arleen Chafitz, owner and CEO of e-End Secure Data Sanitization and Electronics Recycling. Her husband, Steve Chafitz, is the company's president.

The firm's clients include the Department of Defense and other federal agencies. Its work: destroying hard drives, computers, monitors, phones and other sensitive equipment that governments and corporations don't want in the wrong hands.

In a state that's become a center for federal intelligence organizations and private contractors gathering top-secret information, e-End has carved out a niche by destroying the hardware on which such organizations gathered classified material.

At least 40 companies in Maryland specialize in destroying sensitive data, according to the National Association for Information Destruction, but most focus on documents. Robert Johnson, CEO of the trade organization, said thousands of firms across the country destroy devices that retain data.

With high-profile information leaks from the National Security Agency and other organizations, and the steady stream of new laws and regulations to safeguard personal information, those numbers are expected to increase. Maryland law requires state agencies and businesses to implement "reasonable security procedures and practices" to protect personal data.

"It is definitely a growing sector," Johnson said.

The Chafitzes said e-End has annual revenues in excess of $1 million. The 8-year-old company employs 16 people, all of whom Steve Chafitz said have undergone thorough background checks that go back at least seven years.

Need to destroy a rugged Toughbook laptop that might have been used in war? E-End will use a high-powered magnetic process known as degaussing to erase its hard drive of any memory. A computer monitor that might have some top-secret images left on them? Crushed and ground into recyclable glass. Laser sights for weapons? Torn into tiny shards of metal.

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