Criminals are always looking for new ways to steal personal information to use in their illegal activities. Data scraping and finding backdoor hacks into servers are just a few ways hackers are able to access your private data, but there’s another method that might not seem so obvious.
Criminals and hackers can also access your personal data on discarded hard drives, data storage devices like USB flash drives, and even old cell phones. A joint international study by firms in the US, Australia, Germany, and the UK found that 37% of used hard drives bought either online, through retail outlets, or at computer shows, still contained sensitive personal data. They found that these drives, some owned by companies and others owned by individual users, were not being properly erased before being resold.
Some of the information retrieved from the supposedly “wiped” hard drives included bank and credit card account numbers, salary details, medical records, e-commerce purchase histories, and in the case of former company-owned drives, corporate financial data.
This study was conducted by researchers at UK telecoms company BT, the University of Glamorgan in Wales, the University in Perth in Australia, and Longwood University in Virginia.
Surprisingly, a portion of the corporate financial data was found on personal hard-drives, most likely a result of more and more workers doing their jobs remotely. This raises even more concerns for companies looking to safeguard their business information and the personal and financial data of their customers. With millions of old hard drives and storage devices on the market, anyone can potentially access this information if the drives are not properly erased.
Companies that fail to make sure customer data is thoroughly scrubbed from hard drives are putting their customers at risk of identity theft which could lead to legal action and significant fines.
Merely formatting a disk, or deleting all the files, does not mean that the data on that hard drive can’t be recovered. USB drives and portable storage devices can create similar data privacy concerns and because they aren’t attached to the computer, they are much harder to keep track of. Some people might not realize it, but even smartphones can contain personal information that could be used by criminals for identity theft.
Here’s one potential scenario. You run a small e-commerce retail business and are about to upgrade to all new computers and devices. You thought you deleted all of the information on the hard-drives before selling them to a company that sells used computers and parts. Suddenly, there is a rash of complaints from current customers that their data has been compromised or their identities have been stolen. This scenario may sound like a nightmare, but it could be a reality if you fail to properly destroy your e-waste.
Having a dedicated IT person can be helpful in protecting your customer’s information but the best method is to delete all data so there is no possibility of it being in the wrong hands. Information can’t be compromised if it has been securely destroyed.
Marshall Shredding has a team of experts ready to help you with your document shredding and e-waste destruction needs. We specialize in on-site shredding and handle any size job while providing live video monitoring to guarantee all sensitive materials are completely destroyed and rendered useless to any would-be thieves or fraudsters.
Let us help you come up with the right electronic waste destruction plan to protect your personal, business, and customers’ private information. Visit MarshallShredding.com today for a free quote!