UK businesses are failing to remove sensitive data from old PCs. The contents of such systems remain available to whoever buys them second hand, according to a survey released today by Pointsec Mobile Technologies.

A large proportion of such PCs are shipped to third-world countries where the information can be used in ID theft scams.

The survey questioned 329 companies, more than half of whom employ more than 2,000 staff. Fewer than half of the respondents use professional disposal companies to destroy their old computers.

The remaining respondents chose to sell old PCs to second-hand computer resellers, or pass them on to staff. In both cases the next recipient has access to all the old data.

Seventeen percent of the businesses surveyed destroy data in-house - arguably the safest approach. This way companies can guarantee that the right procedure has been followed to adequately destroy the data.

Pointsec's managing director Martin Allen said "We recommend thoroughly reformatting the hard-drive or encrypting the data on all mobile devices. This ensures that no-one can get at the data unless they know the computers password both during the PC’s lifetime and beyond.”

He added that the only way to 100 percent guarantee your data's safety is the destroy your old PC's hard disk.