The potential for identity theft, positively excites a would-be thief. It is estimated that as many as 15 million US residents have their data used fraudulently each year(1), and the police estimate there are 4 million victims in the UK(2). Every time, we upgrade to a new machine, whether a computer, laptop, tablet or a mobile phone; there is a likelihood that we are leaving valuable personal data, on our old devices, to be found by those in the know.
Giving up an old device
As people move to new machines, they often delete their old personal data. Their emails, photos, personal documents, and texts. These items, although no longer visible in folders or directories, still exist and may be found with relative ease. With the use of data recovery software, it is possible to find and view these deleted images and documents. Once found, they are able to be exploited by identity thieves.
The prospect of a new device, often delights the consumer. But as we prepare to sell or give up our old mobile devices and computers, it is imperative that we destroy any, and all, of our personal data. This information needs to be deleted in such a way that it is unavailable to the next owner of the device.
Day to day file shredding
Managing files on a day to day basis, should be done regularly, to ensure the device is running well, and that any old files are removed safely. The use of shredding programs, often provided in security packages, is ideal for day to day use. They are able to overwrite the data, that you are removing, instead of just removing the directory listing for that item. Shredding software often has a setting for the level of destruction, that you require. Choosing the maximum setting, is best.
Some versions of this type of software are able to function at the US DoD 5220.22-M setting, overwriting the data multiple times. Once information has been overwritten by this type of software, it is virtually impossible to recover using data recovery programs.
A full clean
Before selling a device, it is essential, that it is cleaned properly. Where possible, the use of shredding or wiping software, running on an external flash drive, will provide the best experience. By starting the machine from an external source, it is possible to shred the home directory files, and even the entire operating system, if necessary
If the hard drive is being removed from the machine and sold separately, ideally it should be completely wiped and overwritten. This is a very slow process, but will provide peace of mind, that all personal data has been completely lost.