Data recovery and hard drive failure specialist Hard Drive Recovery Associates has published a blog post that serves as a reminder for businesses and individuals planning on recycling hard drives or selling them on the secondary market to make sure all of their sensitive information is wiped and erased.
The blog post says that modern computing systems are rarely replaced unless there are major faults that prevent them from functioning normally. As hardware tends to last longer these days, those looking for an upgrade can more confidently look at the refurbished market to build their new computer. This rise in interest in second-hand purchases means that individuals or businesses who are looking to get rid of their current resources can get a fair price for their tech. Since this is a lucrative opportunity to save costs, many businesses and individual buyers put their current hardware on the refurbished market when it comes time for them to upgrade.
The blog post then informs readers that are considering selling their hard drives on the refurbished market to exercise caution and to make sure that they are only sending out drives after they have been wiped clean and all sensitive information has been scrubbed off it. The operating system’s delete functionality is not effective at wiping data from hard drives as it merely removes a reference to a file instead of the contents of the file from the hard drive itself. This can lead to a false confidence that once everything from a hard drive has been deleted, it is safe to send out to another party. In fact, with simple recovery software, it becomes trivial to extract files that were once deleted, potentially exposing sensitive business data, trade secrets, or personal information that can be exploited for nefarious purposes.
The blog post then references a study performed by a digital forensic team from the Blancco Technology Group, an Alpharetta, GA-based firm that provides data destruction services. The study details how personally identifiable information (PII) such as social security numbers, government documents, financial data, and photos are among common data traces left behind in hard drives that are readily available on the refurbished market. To conduct the study, the team obtained 200 hard drives from online marketplaces like eBay and Craigslist. They were able to recover residual data from more than 78 percent of the drives. Enterprise emails were recovered on nine percent of the drives, followed by spreadsheets containing sensitive company information, including sales projections and product inventories in five percent of the cases. 67 percent of the used drives contained PII. The team recovered photos (43 percent) and photos with GPS data (24 percent), as well as financial data (21 percent), social security numbers (23 percent), and résumés (10 percent).
A spokesperson for Hard Drive Recovery Associates talks about the findings of the forensic data team from Blancco Technology Group by saying, “It didn’t come as a surprise to us that the team was able to recover so much critical information from refurbished hard drives. There is just not enough awareness about how data is stored on computers and how unscrupulous actors may be able to recover seemingly deleted data. Unless a hard drive has been wiped using dedicated data deletion software or completely obliterated before disposal, there is a good chance that someone somewhere might be able to peek into your business or your personal life. We urge all readers to make sure that you invest some time in finding out the best ways to delete data from your hard drive before you send it out to be sold on the refurbished market. A little precaution will save you a lot of trouble if your hard drive happens to fall in the hands of someone with malicious intent.”
Hard Drive Recovery Associates offers services such as external drive and laptop recoveries, server and RAID data recovery, and Mac data recovery. The company is a Certified Macintosh Technician and a partner of most major computer manufacturers. They can be reached at the national toll-free number 1-877-443-2821.