Recent data indicates that over 340 million new computers are sold on an annual basis, 75% of which are replacements for older units. If you do the math, that is approximately 255,000,000 computers being replaced and retired every year. Most of these PC’s end up at recycling facilities or organizations that ‘promise’ to erase your personal information. These companies use various methods for erasure and eradication, most utilizing overwriting software.
The Monumental Task of Tracking and Auditing Hard Drives for Erasure
The question becomes; how can you tell which computer hard drives have been successfully erased? Take a look at the picture to the left. These computers all contain hard drives that were to be erased. They were loaded onto a truck, shipped to the company for erasure, unloaded, palletized, transferred, moved, re-palletized. Did they all get erased? It is a difficult process to audit and leaves many hard drives full of information which ends up in a second hand market. Recently, Glenn Dardick and his research group at Longwood University purchased 300 used and erased hard drives from eBay, a popular outlet for second hand electronics. These hard drives were then checked for information; discovered were launch procedures from the U.S. military, security policies, facility blueprints from Lockheed Martin, and the always popular, lists of social security numbers.
Erasing and Wiping Hard Drives Just Doesn’t Cut It Anymore
Assuming the hard drives do get erased, there is another problem. Current methods of erasure are unpredictable and often faulty. One recent study (and there are 1,000’s out there) conducted by the NCC group indicated that only 38% of drives were free of information after erasure. What was left on the other 62%? The NCC group was successfully able to open and view over 34,000 files containing personal and corporate information including bank statements, passports, birth certificates, employee information, and tax and medical information. The technology used to erase or wipe old hard drives is just not good enough, information is missed and your personal information is at risk for theft.
High Price for Second Hand Hard Drives Creates a Conflict of Interest
Used hard drives are attractive to buyers because they are often hundreds of dollars less than their new counterparts. In today’s market, a used hard drive can bring in an average of $30 – $50 each, quite attractive to sellers. This creates two problems; 1) Erasure companies may, in haste, do a poor job of erasing or wiping hard drives to get them sold and 2) Employees also realize the potential earnings and may find it easy to walk out with the small drives and sell them on their own. In either scenario, the potential for personal information to end up in the wrong hands is quite substantial.
Leave Nothing to Chance
Hard drive shredding is the only way to ensure that your information is completely destroyed. 100% of the time, a shredded hard drive is unreadable, information destroyed, and inaccessible to those searching for information. The choice seems easy if you want to be absolutely sure your information is protected.
Blog by: Matt Neuhaus-Operations Manager