I heard a story yesterday about a friend’s nephew that lost his SD card from his smartphone. The SD card contained data on his games, pictures, and pretty much everything else he used his phone for. He searched everywhere for this SD card until it finally dawned on him where it was.
Turns out, the SD card was in his old smartphone that he traded to a cellular store for a newer phone. Honest mistake, right?
It was an honest mistake, but it is also a symptom of a bigger issue.
Data recycling can lead to big problems, problems that most people are unaware of. For many people that are looking to get rid of electronics, they probably go through a few basic steps to get rid of data such as a factory reset or manually erasing any data they see. However, this won’t get rid of all the data contained on the device.
In a study conducted by Blancco Technology Group, it was found that 78% of hard drives examined in the study still contained residual data that could be recovered. The study focused on 200 used hard disk drives sold on eBay and Craigslist.
What is this data? Well, let’s start with photos (with locations indicators), personal information, Social Security numbers and other financial information.
Perhaps more alarming, about 11% of studied devices contained company information such as emails, sales projections, product inventories and CRM records.
Unfortunately for organizations, this is another way neglectful actions on the part of human beings can cause a data breach or other malicious activity. People make mistakes all the time, and these unintentional mistakes can have severe consequences.
Erasing Computers, Tablets and Phones
Going through all your devices and making sure they are clear of any data can be a chore (especially if technology is not your thing). There is good news: the Internet is full of information that can help you solve this problem.
Obviously, there are different devices that hold your data and the steps taken to get rid of that data will be different. Below are some helpful links that can guide you through erasing all the data from a device:
- USA Today: 3 simple ways to delete your data for good: This article from USA Today talks about steps you can take on Windows computers to delete data from the hard drive. The latest version of Windows covered in the article is Windows 8. It does offer information for Windows 7 OS and below.
- BT: Selling your computer? How to wipe your PC with Windows 10: This article from BT shows you how to erase data from a hard drive with a Windows 10 OS. It will also show you how to reinstall Windows 10 for when and if you decide to sell the device or give it to a friend or relative.
- ZDNet: Securely wiping an Android smartphone or tablet: Android devices are the most popular on the market, so this article covers the data erasure issue for many people with an Android OS smartphone or tablet.
- Apple: What to do before selling or giving away your iPhone, iPad, or iPad touch: This is a page from Apple support detailing what a user must do in order to erase their data.
- Apple: What to do before selling or giving away your Mac: This is the data erasure process for Mac computers.
As the Blancco Technology Group noted, many organizations struggle when it comes to securing the data on old drives.
“One of the more troublesome challenges is related to wiping the data from them when employees leave the company, the drives hit their end of life or the data itself needs to be removed to comply with IT policies and security regulations,” the report read.
Ensure your organization has a clear policy in place so that — unlike my friend’s nephew — you’re not scrambling later and trying to figure out the source of sensitive information being compromised.