The majority of people have media devices such as computers, USB sticks, smartphones or hard drives that they no longer use. For many, these devices are waiting to be sold to resell stores in exchange for cash. A number of these stores guarantee to wipe the data from your media device for free before they sell it on. But, are they actually doing this? And if they are, are they doing it correctly?
With our media devices now hosting a treasure chest of our personal secrets, and the rise of cybercrime, it is now more important than ever to ensure our personal data is not out in the open.
In order to investigate whether reseller stores were actually doing what they guaranteed, a security researcher conducted a study to see.
The researcher spent six months buying refurbished devices from reselling stores that guaranteed all data would be wiped from the media before being sold on.
In total, 85 devices were purchased and included desktops, laptops, removable media, hard drives, and mobile phones.
Out of the 85 devices analyzed it was found that only two had been erased correctly. The researcher was able to retrieve a great deal of personal data including:
- 611 email addresses
- 50 birthday dates
- 41 social security numbers (Social Security Number – SSN)
- 19 credit cards
- 6 licenses
- 2 passports
In addition to sensitive data, the researcher also found thousands of images, documents (doc, pdf, csv, etc.) and personal emails.
Lack of security
The results show that the majority of individuals underestimate or are not aware of the risks that failure to delete data can generate.
With cybercrime on the rise, you do not want to make it easy for hackers to infiltrate your online life, so ensuring your personal data has been correctly wiped is something you should be individually responsible for.
It is obvious from the study conducted that those resell shops that were bought from had no interest in data security. As professionals, it was their duty to ensure the correct data erasure procedures were followed to ensure the security of their customers – especially as they were advertising the fact they would erase the data in the first place!
No one wants to find that their data has got into the wrong hands. A prime example of this is what happened to Canadian teenage, Natalie Hall. She discovered through social media that a resident of Dubai has come into possession of her personal data through a ‘broken’ phone that she had sold. You can read more about that here.
How do you make sure your data is deleted properly?
In a previous article we published, we go into detail about how to protect your data before selling your old media device.
Just remember that your privacy should remain just that, private! Take all the necessary steps needed to ensure it, even if you think “it will never happen to me,” you can never be too sure!