Getting rid of old computers

An article posted describes yet another example of how important it is to pay attention to the disposing of old computers and computer peripherals.…

A phrase has even been coined to describe new methods for obtaining information that can be used for identity theft and other criminal activities: “Dumpster Diving”

Everything we use for storage has the ability to store recoverable bits of information. Deleting a file from the file manager will not remove it from the disk. Technically, this only deletes the link to the file, but the ones and zeros that represent the file are still intact.

Here is an incomplete of things that cannot be thrown away w/o properly ‘wiping’ the data :
USB Memory keys / Flash disks
Flash memory cards
Hard drives (internal, external, laptops, desktops)
Backup tapes/drives
System recycle bins

Any data deleted at any time during the life of the hardware, is likely to be at least partially recoverable. There are free and nearly free utilities to can scan devices looking for fragments of files, and can subsequently restore access to them. Generally, these utilities write random bit patterns to the drive and effectively overwrites any existing file fragments. In most cases, formatting is not effective at removing traces of files.

Other options are to encrypt files, folders, and even entire hard drives. Encryption options are readily available, and should be discussed when arming employees with laptops.

Thinks to remember :
Don’t just throw out computers; they may have data on them.
Check optical drives, AND floppy drives for media.
Shred or cut up optical and floppy media.
Don’t throw away flash media w/o scrubbing them first.
Have system hard drives from old systems manually scrubbed.
Don’t throw away old backup tapes even if you think they don’t work.


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