We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message
80,259 News Articles

Old hard drives must be destroyed

Dumped drives tempt ID thieves

Identity thieves could be tempted by the huge number of hard drives that are being dumped with confidential data intact, says Which? Computing.

The consumer protection publication said that it's so easy to recover data from dumped drives, that the only solution is to destroy them with a hammer. The publication showed how easy it was to retrieve sensitive data from unwanted PCs by buying eight second-hand hard drives from online auction site eBay and trawling through them to see what confidential information could be uncovered.

Using easily obtainable free software, Which? researchers recovered 22,000 'deleted' files, including images, music files and spreadsheets.

Which? Computing editor Sarah Kidner warned that the risk of falling victim is high as the average UK citizen is worth an estimated £85,000 to an identity fraudster. "PCs contain more valuable personal information than ever as people increasingly shop online and use social networking sites."

Visit Security Advisor for the latest internet threat news, FREE net threat email newsletters, and internet security products

She said that brute force was often the only answer; "It sounds extreme, but the only way to be 100 percent safe is to smash your hard drive into smithereens".

Which? Computing research closely mirrors that of University of Glamorgan's carried out last summer. The BT-funded research analysed 317 second-hand hard drives purchased second-hand and found that 23 percent of business machines contained enough information to identify the specific company that had owned them, and a shocking five percent still held sensitive business information.

If destruction sounds too extreme, there's always the option of encrypting all the hard disks. This could be an expensive option and not always reliable as researchers from Princeton University found last year when researchers showed that encryption such as BitLocker could be cracked.

See also: How to safely dispose of an old PC

IDG UK Sites

How to get a free EE Power Bar: Mobile and broadband customers eligible for free smartphone charger

IDG UK Sites

Why Netflix won't terminate your account for using a VPN, probably

IDG UK Sites

Forever 21 denies pirating Adobe, Autodesk and Corel software, accuses companies of 'bullying'

IDG UK Sites

New Apple TV 2015 release date rumours: Apple's WWDC invite shows Apple TV