Make sure what you throw away doesn’t fall into criminal hands.
How do you dispose of sensitive paper documents? You shred them. Easy answer, right? But what about the business information that only exists electronically? Delete is not enough.
Electronic data lingers, like a ghost, long after you hit the DELETE key. Deleting removes the file from view, but the information may remain on the drive. If you plan to throw away or recycle an old hard drive, flash drive, or other electronic device, simply deleting the files will expose the data on that device to theft and illegal use.
There are simple and inexpensive programs available that can “un-erase” and recover files after they are deleted. Identity thieves and other criminals can easily recover data from these devices. In a recent test, a privacy expert purchased 158 old hard drives from law firms, computer stores, and eBay, then recovered thousands of credit card numbers, confidential corporate files, e-mail messages, and private financial information. One unfortunate business owner had Social Security numbers, confidential personal and business information, and even a love letter to his mistress recovered from his computer by an IT equipment recycler. It was all discovered during a televised demonstration of how easily information can be gleaned from obsolete drives.
With cases of identity theft increasing in number, and new legislation that holds organization’s accountable for maintaining the confidentiality of the data in their care, knowing how to get rid of electronic data is essential.
What can you do? At work, you should follow our organization’s data destruction policies. General guidelines include:
- Scrubbing data from your devices with programs that use Department of Defense (DoD) standards for file deletion (this is NOT part of Windows).
- Using IT asset disposal companies that can certify your devices have been wiped clean before recycling, selling, or disposing.
- Keeping clear records of the location and access information for stored electronic media.
Remember, even though you can’t see deleted information, experts can. Follow our IT guidelines when disposing of electronic assets to protect our organization.
Worried about your home devices and the security of your own data? When you need to erase a file so that it can never be recovered, use a tool that meets DoD standards for data deletion. Remember that once you have done this, the data is gone and can never be recovered.