Some new information out today from the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in that they found out of the Hard Disks that they tested, about 11% still held data on them and a lot of this data was personal/private information about a person. This data if pieced together from other data on a Hard Drive about a person, could actually help a criminal create a bogus identification (ID).
“One in 10 second-hand hard drives still contain the original user’s personal information, suggests an investigation by the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
It purchased devices from auction sites such as eBay and computer fairs.
Of the 200 hard disks collected, 11% contained personal information.
At least two of the drives had enough information to enable someone to steal the former owners’ identities, the watchdog said”
However we do have a few options here, in that you can securely erase any deleted or specific folder locations on your daily production/used PC or if you are selling your PC or are RMAing you can erase the whole Hard Disk Drive (HDD) so that no data can be recovered by conventional data recovery means.
Disposing of or Dead HDD
If you have a dead HDD or are just disposing of a HDD then you can do two things depending on if you can access the HDD, if you cannot access then HDD then I would get a good power drill and tungsten bit and drill through the HDD, this should damage the platters that hold the data. Warning is that this is a potential dangerous task, so use any protective clothing you can (goggles, protective gloves etc. or get someone else who is handy with tools to do this.
If you have access to the HD then you can use a drive erasing tool such as Secure Erase to erase the HDD securely, but do note that the best erase methods as in “7 pass secure erase” will take some hours to run its course, depending on size of HDD, plus these methods need a little bit of tech knowledge as you will need to either know command line or how to create a boot disk.
Some may say you can also if you have access to a high powered magnet, run it over the HDD and this will corrupt the data, but not everyone has access to these magnets. (thought I would throw this one in as a random)
Current PC you are still using
At times we all have personal or sensitive data we delete and think that it’s gone, but sadly the normal delete in Windows does not securely delete this data, it can be recovered (if not overwritten by new data, as deleted data is only flagged as delete and not actually deleted) by a wide range of free Data Recovery Software.
So what you can use to securely delete the deleted data is something like CCleaner as it has a secure delete option build in, just needs to be setup. Start by downloading and installing CCleaner from Majorgeeks (do also have a video guide on the site on how to use all the functions of CCleaner) or Piriform.
Once installed and run, click Options > Settings and in the Secure Deletion settings click “secure file deletion (slower) and choose at least “7 Passes” option, the “35 Passes” option will take many more hours than 7 Passes to complete.
- 7 Passes is the U.S. DoD 5220 method
- 35 passes is the Peter Gutmann method
Then once set to the option you want, just click Cleaner menu option and Run, then this will securely delete\wipe any files you have deleted as well as removing Internet History, Temp files etc, so do watch the Majorgeeks video guide to help with settings.
You can also with CCleaner if you add the old or due to be sold as 2nd hand HDD as a slave option in a Desktop PC, then run the Drive Wiper option in CCleaner, found by clicking Tools > Drive Wiper and once chosen an option Wipe.
There are other applications both free and retail that can securely erase data, and I have only covered a few methods, so please feel free in the comments section to tell us your own methods or applications used.
WARNING – Secure data deletion is permanent so be very sure that the data you want erased is not needed. Always create backups of your data on external devices just in case of accidental deletion as well as hardware failure.