Previously owned electronics pose identity theft threat
People who have sold their PCs, smartphones and cameras may find themselves in a dangerous position regarding their identity. According to a recent study conducted by Laplink Software and O&O Software, as many as 85 percent of memory storage and hard drives randomly purchased by researchers still had sensitive personal information stored on them. Only 15 percent were either securely erased or damaged so files were not obtainable.
The research said simple technology to "un-erase" the data managed to recover nearly 53,000 photos and 4,500 documents. Although some of the files recovered during the study did not appear to pose much of a threat, some devices had private pictures, legal documents and other sensitive information that could be dangerous should it fall into the wrong hands.
"Users often feel a false sense of security because they use an encrypted browser and security software as well as delete files that are no longer needed," said Laplink CEO Thomas Koll. "However, when deleting files, users don't realize that simply dragging files to the recycle bin or trash isn't enough. They need to use software that is specially designed to securely erase their sensitive data to be certain it cannot be recovered."
The study also noted that the rise in online security breaches and identity theft are several reasons why people must be aware of the potential dangers of not using proper protection methods. Before selling older devices, effectively erasing memory is essential.
"When deleting a file using the recycle bin, all that the user has actually done is removed the particular file name from the disk's index; the file still remains on the hard drive," said Laplink CTO Jack Wilson. "Removing the file name from the index makes it more difficult to find that file, but it's still there and is relatively easy to find, especially with the right software."
Another study has shown the dangers of identity theft, especially in the United States. According to Javelin Strategy & Research, more than 11.6 million adults in the country were victims of such incidents last year, increasing by 13 percent compared to 2010. The only silver lining in this development is that criminals are finding it more difficult to gain as much monetary value as in previous years.