Chances are high that you or someone you know received some new technology over the holidays, whether it’s the latest smartphone, laptop, or tablet. The arrival of new devices inevitably leads to the disposal of old devices, which can cause enormous security risks. Regardless of whether you are donating, recycling, or just throwing away used equipment, it is essential that you take every precaution to wipe the drive clean and eliminate the risk of someone gaining access to sensitive information such as passwords, credit card numbers, or Social Security numbers.

When Disposing Old Technology such as computers, your first step should be to backup any information you want to keep onto an external hard drive, or transfer the information to your new computer. Once your data is backed up, use software such as DBAN (Darik’s Boot and Nuke) to wipe the hard drive clean. Another option is to remove the hard drive and keep it in a secure location, or remove the hard drive and physically destroy it with a hammer or drill. The key is to ensure that none of your personal information remains on the computer.

Similarly, smartphones and tablets contain large amount of private data that, if it falls into the wrong hands, could lead to identity theft and other legal complications. SecurityOrb recommends using the factory data reset feature on your mobile device, which will remove data that was imported, downloaded, or added to the phone. However, this does not necessarily ensure that your data has been completely cleared, and information could still be accessed by someone with the correct tools and technical know-how. Lee Reiber, director of mobile forensics, at AccessData, recently demonstrated the ease with which he could uncover details about email accounts, credit cards, and other personal information that had supposedly been removed in a test for FoxNews.com.  Due to the relative newness of mobile devices, no surefire method has been established for securely disposing of these products.

Given the way that technology has become fully-integrated with daily life, it is easy to forget how much personal data is contained on devices such as laptops and smartphones. Even older pieces of technology such as copiers and fax machines can be a goldmine of sensitive information for those who know where to look, as a whitepaper by GraVoc’s information security practice revealed earlier this year.  In addition to your private records, your devices might contain information that could put your company and your job at risk. Taking the time to properly eliminate any and all information contained on your devises prior to donating or disposing them will save you from huge costs and headaches down the line.

GraVoc Associates, Inc. is committed to helping businesses utilize the newest technologies while keeping confidential data secure from malicious parties. Our information technology practice can assist with designing, implementing, and testing technology infrastructures, while our information security practice provides IT assurance and audit services to safeguard critical information. For more on our services and our company, please visit www.gravoc.com.

For further reading:

“Selling or donating equipment? Don’t forget to wipe it clean” http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/security/selling-or-donating-equipment-dont-forget-to-wipe-it-clean/7128

“Wipe Your Tech Devices Before Giving Them Away…” http://securityorb.com/2011/12/wipe-tech-devices-giving-away/

“What To Do Before Disposing Of A Computer” http://techlogon.com/2011/04/07/what-to-do-before-disposing-of-a-computer/

“Old Smartphones Leave Tons Of Data For Digital Dumpster Dive” http://www.darkreading.com/mobile-security/167901113/security/news/232300628/old-smartphones-leave-tons-of-data-for-digital-dumpster-divers.html

“What Data Lurks on Your Old Smartphone?” http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2011/12/14/delete-those-text-messages-before-sell-your-old-smartphone-or-else/

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