Data Protection (Part 1) - Personal Data and Second Hand Drives

If you’re thinking about getting a bit of cash for an old hard drive, you should take strict steps to purge it of data, particularly if it contains personal information like bank details, scans of identification, or personal photos.

A study by Blancco Technology Group, who specialise in secure data erasure, conducted  a study on 200 randomly purchased hard drives from eBay and Craigslist. Their objective was to see if any data could be recovered, and if so, how much. Their findings were pretty shocking, but hardly surprising.

The study found that more than half of the drives purchased, 67%, contained residual files, including personal files like CVs, financial information and family photos. Blancco warned that, in the wrong hands, this data could be used for identity theft and fraud.

Perhaps even more worrying was the number of business hard drives that contained residual data that hadn’t been securely deleted – 11%. The data found included company data including staff emails and financial spreadsheets, as well as personal details of customers. This, obviously, has huge repercussions. The Data protection Act (1998) has strict guidelines on how to handle personal data, particularly regarding security.

Second hand hard drives can be a gold mine for criminals, so we can’t stress enough how important it is to securely erase your hard drive when you’ve finished using it – and simply moving your files and folders to the recycle bin is not adequate. Neither is performing a quick format on the drive – this doesn’t permanently delete the data. Of the drives that Blancco examined, only 10% had been erased securely so that no information could be recovered.

It isn’t just hard drives that need to be securely erased – data can be recovered from solid state drives (SSDs), mobile phones, SD cards and USB flash drives with ease if there is residual data left. If you just delete the files, or format, then there's a strong possibility a data recovery specialist will be able to get your personal files back

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