Most of us now, have our own personal devices. Each of us, more than one. A phone, a tablet, and a PC/Notebook, to conduct our personal affairs. Most of the time, affairs dealing with sensitive and important information are conducted on our PCs. Our online shopping, financial transactions… Sometimes, we use our PCs to store personal information such as scans of our passports, identity cards and other sensitive documents. Over the years, we upgrade to newer and more advanced models, dumping or reselling our old ones and buying new computers. In the reselling process, before reselling, we’d do a simple memory wipe to ensure all our sensitive data is cleaned away, and our computers reformatted. After that, we happily resell our computers, our worries washed away by the illusion that our data has been completely erased and unrecoverable.
This is a terrible and misinformed idea that many people in the world hold today.
Even though we’ve moved our documents and pictures into the recycling bin, the data still exists on our hard drives. Until that data is overwritten with new data, it will continue to exist and remain recoverable by people who have the means and intentions. Yes, somebody out there who buys your used laptop can still extract private information from your HDD, and use it with malicious intent. Especially since the world is now moving most of its activities online, such as shopping, booking of flights, and other operations, there will be an increase in concentration of our personal information on our computers and devices.
Multiple experiments conducted by data forensics companies and organizations have proved this to be a scary truth: Unknowingly, people are giving up bytes and bytes of their personal information and photos, social security numbers and other personally identifiable data, as they are oblivious to how HDDs and data sanitation works.
Blancco Technology Group
Blancco Technology Group is a globally established organization that specializes in data sanitation and computer reuse for corporations and government organizations. In 2016, the company conducted an experiment that would reveal the shocking truth and dangers of improper data sanitation. For the experiment, the company bought 200 used computers from resale sites such as Craigslist and eBay. After that, their company conducted data recovery procedures to see how much personal information they could still recover from the resold PCs. Here is a breakdown
data extracted from PC World and scmagazineuk
Residual data on used hardware is a real issue that the common person may not be informed of. Another study was conducted by Which? a technology review magazine. They had bought computers and hard drives off auction sites such as eBay, and were able to recover over 20,000 deleted files on 8 different computers, some containing vital information such as bank details, mortgage applications, and personal information such as addresses. Clearly, right clicking and deleting files is beyond insufficient to properly sanitize and erase your personal information.
The problems with improper disposal and sanitation of hard drives not only plague consumers, but sometimes, firms as well. There is even a wiki site on major events and reports about the issues and violations that have arisen with improper data sanitation and resales of uncleaned HDDs. Without properly erasing your data via professional means, your personal information is ripe for the taking by hackers and people with malicious intent.
Securing your data
There are a number of ways that you are able to secure your data.
MacOS users can use FileVault which comes together with buying Apple computers. Windows users can use BitLocker which also comes together when buying Windows PCs. External third pary programs may also be used, such as TrueCrypt
- Complete destruction of your HDD
Consumers alternatively may seek data sanitation organizations with the proper equipment such as hard drive crushers or degaussers that will be able to securely and physically destroy all your data. Our company, Metalo International provides this service.
- Erasure Programs
Consumers can also seek for companies that specialize in data erasure without physically destroying the hard drive, so that you can resell your personal devices.