Resold hard drives on eBay, Craigslist are often still ripe with leftover data

Users are failing to properly delete the data on their recycled hard drives

Before you throw away that old hard drive, make sure you purge the memory clean. A new study has found that most users are accidentally giving up photos, social security numbers and financial data, by failing to properly delete the files on their recycled hard drives.

Blancco Technology Group, which specializes in data erasure, conducted the study by randomly buying 200 secondhand PC storage drives from eBay and Craigslist. Their goal was to see if the company could recover any of the old data saved inside.

In most cases, it could. 78 percent of the drives contained residual data that could be recovered.

Over half of the drives, at 67 percent, still held personal files, such as photos with location indicators, resumes and financial data. If fallen into the wrong hands, the data could be used for identity theft and fraud, the company warned.

11 percent of the drives also contained company data, such as emails, spreadsheets and customer information.

The study, which was released on Tuesday, highlights the security problems with secondhand electronics. The previous owners often fail to delete all the data inside. Digital photocopiers, for instance, have been resold still storing all the documents they’ve ever scanned.

Old hard drives can also be a gold mine for hackers. Deleting the files stored inside may seem straight forward for the owner. But simply sending the files into the desktop's Recycle Bin isn't enough, Blancco said in its study.

In other cases, the user will run a “quick format” on the storage drive, thinking the files have been permanently removed. However, these methods don’t fully delete the data, but simply leave it hidden and intact, the study added.

Of the storage drives examined, only 10 percent had all the data securely wiped, Blancco said. It advises that owners use proper data erasure software to properly remove all the files. These tools can work by overwriting all the memory with meaningless data, to ensure that none of the residual information is left recoverable.

Blancco conducted its study in this year’s first quarter. Most of the drives bought were hard disk drives.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags privacy

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Michael Kan

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?