Protecting your Data and Preventing It from Reaching the Larger Market
If you are selling your old PC or laptop, this is one major way that your personal data will end up on the market, simply because you didn’t clean out your old unit properly. Simson Garfinkel, a security specialist and author, did his own little research on how easily data could be transferred from person to person through old and used units. Off eBay alone, he was able to buy hard drives that were second hand from different organizations and businesses. These included medical centers and banks. From both he collected tens of thousands of credit card numbers and a little under a thousand PINs from the second hand drives alone.
The study Garfinkel did was in 2003, and today other organizations are starting to sit up and notice the security breaches. Kessler International did their own research and found that not only are organizational second hand hard drives sold, personal ones are too. And these personal drives still contains hundreds of jpegs, personal documents, emails, and other highly confidential information that they are sure the owners would not have like to have shared.
Changing Technological Times
Because of technological developments, more people are starting to veer towards buying more mobile gadgets such as laptops, netbooks, and smartphones. With that trend, more people are carrying data on them on iPods, iPads, USB sticks, digicams, and other small devices. This is so different from the initial studies done by Garfinkel in 2003 when PCs were still the big thing over others.
There are many gadgets, equipment, and even automobiles that we sell to other people and we forget to wipe out any personal information that might still be on hard disks. An old photocopying machine may still contain the hard drive that has digitally copied thousands of office documents, and selling the photocopying unit merely puts all your personal and organizational information into the hands of another. Even entertainment systems where you can download photos and audio files still have the old files in them when they are resold to new customers. Although one may think that music files may hardly cause a security breach, downloaded personal pictures might and people can use these to invade other people’s privacy or even cause scandals.
This is why every person should be extremely prudent about how they handle their data, how they erase it from old digital units they intend to sell, and how to double check if erased files are really erased, just to make sure they don’t become victim to security threats.
Permanent Deletion of Information
This decade has shown a huge development in gadgets and computer technology which means that more people today are getting rid of old stuff to make way for the new toys. When you sell your old unit, simply deleting the information from your hard drive isn’t always sufficient enough to ensure permanency in the deletion. Even reformatting it is not enough anymore.
Today you can actually get tools to help you erase information permanently. These are called erasing or wiping utilities that will go into your hard drive and overwrite every single sector in your drive down to the smallest binary code, just to meet complete the standard in permanent deletion. There are government standards now that dictate such standards of deletion to ensure safety and security, and you can be sure that these tools will be able to do it for you. An example of these kinds of utilities is CyberCide. They can also be used to wipe the memory on smaller drives such as USB sticks and SD cards too.
Apple has tried to keep up with the times even in terms of ensuring security. Anything built after 2009 by Apple already has settings in encryption, which means that their commands like “Erase All Content and Settings” on each iPhone and iPod Touch unit completely erases data to a very satisfactory level (erasing the encryption key itself) that prevents any other owner from retrieving it.
Physically Complete and Utter Destruction
If worse comes to worse and you really want to make sure that nobody (and you mean nobody!) will ever get a hold of even a remnant of your personal information, then the only other way would be to completely destroy the actual device itself. You may have to make sure that the device you are destroying undergoes complete destruction, turn it into ashes and dust if possible. Remember, there are places today that try to retrieve data from destroyed storage drives that have been subjected to natural disasters and have been damaged.
Companies actually offer complete destruction by selling products that will do the very trick. One such example is the Guardian Physical Drive Destroyer.