Second Hand Storage Devices Retain A Lot of Residual Data About You

March 8, 2024

It’s a serious concern for those looking to buy or sell a second-hand device for storing data: There could still be an arsenal of data left on the device. Landing in the hands of information thieves, there’s no telling the havoc it could wreak. Kroll Ontrack, a company specializing in data recovery has some startling news about those used devices. In cases of the careless or unknowing, selling a personal data device can mean selling your identity right along with it.

The company purchased 64 used drives from different areas around the world, including from eBay and private sellers on other sites and locations. Of the 64 drives, 47% had readable data still on them. The remaining 53% had been wiped clean. With the 30 drives still holding information, Kroll Ontrack investigated the contents of information available. Data drives from businesses held payroll data, credit card numbers, and tax returns. Personal drives contained critical and highly personal information. Included in that data were phone numbers, addresses, photos, user names, and passwords and banking/credit details. All in all, personal or business, Kroll Ontrack found no shortage of data on the second-hand devices.

Thoroughly erasing data is at the heart of the problem for any type of used drive. There are businesses who wipe old data from a device for a price. Still others who specialize in recovering lost data also offer to reverse the process. Just make sure to choose a reputable business (resist the temptation to pay the kid down the street to do it). There are also free options that allow you to wipe the drive clean, although there’s no guarantee it will do a thorough job. If reselling a drive is not necessary, drill a hole right through the center before taking it to an electronics recycler and that will essentially render it useless. Just remember this is final. There’s no going back to recover whatever was on it.

Ultimately, it’s up to the seller to securely remove the data from a device, and the way they choose is up to them. As to purchasing a second-hand storage device, it may be up the buyer’s conscience to use or ignore the data. In any event, this is something to make you stop and think twice before selling that old device.