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One in Ten at Risk of Hard Drive Identity Theft

Contributed by Sussex SEO
October 19, 2018

Hard drive identity theft is a very real threat. Sadly, a significant number of corporate bodies aren't doing enough to protect themselves. In fact, many companies, due to negligence or oversight on their part when it comes to the disposal of old hard drives, are making themselves extremely vulnerable to this type of theft.

The risk associated with not properly disposing of old hard drives comes from the fact that financial details and other sensitive information formerly stored on the hard drive are actually still recoverable. These hard drives, after being thrown out by the company, are commonly found for sale on auction sites such as eBay. According to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), out of two-hundred used hard drives purchased, 11% of them still contained personal information, while about 50% of them still had other types of data stored on them. About 34,000 files containing personal information were found in total on the drives.

Among the 200 drives, two in particular had sufficient information to effectively steal the identity of the former owner, and another four contained medical or financial information. However, it's not just the hard drives that are incorrectly thrown away that put people at risk. Data stored on USB sticks and mobile phones can also pose a vulnerability risk.

On eBay and other websites used for getting rid of second-hand products, thousands of mobile phones, hard drives, laptops, computers, and other data-storing devices are up for sale. The Information Commissioner believes that a significant number of people and companies, up to one-in-ten, give away or sell their old phones, computers, and laptops without properly deleting information.

In other cases where the seller simply used the reformat options to clear a storage device there is still at risk, with many programs available online (some for free) that can be used to retrieve deleted data.

"For a company with a global presence, or one that services customers in the EU, this could be a GDPR risk." Adds GDPR expert from

Business owners and managers need to start thinking about the possibility of fines if they don't take enough care in the way that they dispose of their devices.

How easy or hard is it to recover Deleted Data?

Nowadays, data (especially personal and company information) is considered a highly valuable commodity. So valuable that various people and groups will go the extra mile to lay their hands on the data for their personal use. This use is often nefarious - placing the original owner of the data at risk. This is why it is important you do everything possible to ensure your data doesn't end up in the wrong hands. One way to guarantee this is through the proper disposal of your data and storage devices that are no longer being used.

Presuming that using your delete button to get rid of a file means that file is gone forever is erroneous. The information can be easily recovered. Emptying your recycle bin is equally insufficient, as the trashed data can still be retrieved with the right software.

If you truly want to rid your computer or other storage device of all data, you need to perform a thorough wipe. If not, the device, once thrown out or given away, can be a treasure trove of digital information that hackers could use against you or your company. This information may include credit card details, passwords, phone numbers, bank account numbers, addresses, and other personal information.

How to safely and effectively get rid of a hard drive

All files, regardless of their format, leave traces on a hard drive after they have been deleted. While not all of these files will be of use for identity theft, it is important not to take any risks. This is especially true if the hard drive was formerly used by a corporate organisation, small business, or an establishment such as a school or hospital where sensitive information and financial details are routinely used and held.

Most individuals or companies sell or give away their hard drives when they develop issues, or they want to upgrade to a better system. With sufficient information – even trace information – from an improperly-disposed of hard drive, a hacker may be able to gain access to your social media accounts and online banking platforms. The damage that can be caused by this access depends on the level of creativity and intentions of the hacker.

So, how do you properly wipe a hard drive of information or get rid of the hard drive itself to prevent identity theft and other possible dangers? Use the following tips and you will be far safer:

1. Wipe the disk

Instead of simply pushing the Delete button or Shift + Delete, completely overwrite your system or hard drive to ensure data recovery is impossible. When you perform an overwrite, the stored data will be overwritten with added binary codes. This is a twofold system cleanse that first deletes the data then overwrites it. The process may take more time than a simple delete but it is surely worth the peace of mind.

2. Destroying the disk

If you would rather take no chance, then simply grab a hammer and smash your old hard drives into oblivion. By destroying the physical storage device completely, there is no way the data on it will ever see the light of day again. While this may seem excessive, it is without a doubt effective.

3. Disassembling the disk

If destroying the whole hard drive is too messy a chore for you, you can take the time to first disassemble the hard drive after which you can destroy the platter disc within it. The platter disk is the component of the hard drive that actually holds the data, so destroying just that part will render the entire hard drive useless.

In summary, if you don't want your old hard drive to be a total loss, you can wipe the disk and overwrite it before selling it. But, if you are done with the hard drive for good, then smashing and trashing it will ensure the data on it never comes back. Besides, destroying the hard drive is a far faster process than overwriting it.


Tags: intellectual property | business



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