We’ve all heard this story before, but evidently 2/3 of us haven’t been listening properly. As consumers, we toss out millions of digital devices each year without deleting the data on them. The latest researchers to chronicle the problem work at Blancco Technology Group, which recently found that 67% of all the used devices they bought on eBay still contained compromising data.
Eleven percent of the digital items contained highly sensitive corporate data – a real mistake. It’s been documented that some hackers buy computers, copy machines or other items just to mine them for data. In 2013, workers in Harris County, Texas were informed that their personal data had been discovered in Vietnam. While the source of the data leak was never revealed, a very common path might have included the purchase of a used device.
Blancco’s Paul Henry said, “I was more saddened than surprised by our study’s findings. This is the second data recovery study we have done in the last 12 months. To see how little has changed in regards to differentiating effective data deletion methods from improper methods speaks to what needs to change in the industry.”
Two out of three devices tossed or recycled without regard to their data contents is a startling number. The company purchased 200 devices on eBay in their second attempt to document the problem. The analysis found that the majority of used items still yielded a lot of personal and/or company data. Financial data was exposed on 21% of the machines, Social Security numbers were found on 23% of the devices, and 10% contained resumes loaded with personal data.
“(I)n a world where money rules, this could have devastating effects for individuals because it could not only rob them of their hard-earned money,” Henry said, “but it could also hurt their chances to get approved for financing, mortgage loans and so much more.”
Henry warned that reformatting a drive or simply dragging contents to the trash is a woefully inadequate method of data disposal. Those attempts present no serious challenges for a hacker who wants to reverse the process. So think twice before you drop it at the nearest recycling center.