Four Things You Need to Know About Wiping Personal Data From Used Devices Before You Get Rid of Them
Do a quick inventory in your head: how many old computers, cellphones and smartphones do you have stashed in your basement or dumped in a desk drawer that you don‘t intend to use because they’ve been replaced with the latest and greatest model?
Perhaps you haven‘t gotten rid of these devices because you’re aware of the personal data is still enclosed within their hard-drives and memory cards. If you have sold, recycled or thrown away systems such as this, though, did you take the proper steps to remove this data?
Here are four things you need to understand about cleaning your system of data before you sell, recycle or donate your device:
- Deleting Is Not Erasing: As Mark Herschberg, an MIT graduate in cryptography who works for the tech consulting company FreelanceCTO, puts it “throwing out files form your filing cabinet into a dumpster may make them inaccessible to your filing system, but anyone who digs through your dumpster can put the pages back together and read your data.”
- Ditching the Hard Drive: When possible, you can remove the hard drive from your device completely. This will render the system unusable until a new hard drive is installed, but it does take care of the data issue. You can either destroy the hard drive or save it if some information is still valuable to you and worth maintaining.
- Shred Your Data: If you want the hard drive to remain intact and within the device, you can actually wipe the drive of your personal information that has accumulated over the years. One of the techniques Sun describes as a “Boot and Nuke,”such as Darik‘s Boot ’N Nuke, which is “somewhat easy” for the average user. Here’s essentially how it works: You download a program, burning it onto a CD. Booting up your computer with this program inserted, the software allows your computer to run off of its own operation system, instead of running on your hard drive. As Sun pointed out, if your hard drive were being used, you couldn’t wipe it. At this point, you follow the “nuke” steps to clear your hard drive of data. This final step could take hours to overnight depending on how much there is. This video shows how to use a program like this to wipe your hard drive:
- Cellphones and Smartphones: When it comes to smartphones, though, wiping data is a bit trickier. You can take out the phone’s SIM card, but there is still internal memory on the phone itself. Sun said that the smartphone industry has gotten smarter realizing the need for including a function that can clear phones of your personal information. Sun credits BlackBerry as being the first smartphone to allow for data wipes. Many smartphones also have functions that if your phone is stolen you can remotely clear the data. Some of these embedded and remote wiping functions conduct a factory reset.
Do you think that the threat of identity theft is worth going through all this? You may not, until your credit is ruined. Then these steps will look simple and easy... in the rear view mirror.