Are you sure you wiped your hard drive properly?

October 2019 Cyber Security, Security Services & Risk Management

Have you ever seen a hacker movie? When the other shoe drops, you can see the black hat scrambling for their computer, tearing out the hard drive and trying to erase them. They may even run neodymium magnets over them and then finish the job by driving an electric drill directly through the platters of the drives. Alternatively, they just smash it with a hammer and hope for the best, says Carey van Vlaanderen, CEO at ESET South Africa.


Carey van Vlaanderen, CEO at ESET South Africa.

Rest assured, you really do not have to go about smashing your hard drives left and right, but you should always ensure the security and privacy of your data under all circumstances – a point made even clearer by a recent study.

Commissioned by Comparitech and conducted by the University of Hertfordshire, the study sought to find out how thorough we are when it comes to wiping our hard drives before we sell them. Turns out, many of us are not very thorough. Or at all.

The researchers performed a series of tests on a sample of 200 second-hand hard drives that had been bought off online marketplaces and various merchants. They found almost 60% of these hard drives still contained some information stored on them by the former owners.

The leftover information included sensitive data that could be exploited by bad actors. The data ranged from official documents such as scans of passports and driver licenses, through bank statements and tax documents to visa applications and even photos of an intimate nature. The list of documents uncovered on these hard drives is much more varied, but this is just to illustrate how much sensitive data you may store on your hard drives, and without giving it much thought.

On the other hand, although it may look like the owners are indifferent towards securing their data, the study shows otherwise. The former owners did try to wipe their data, they just failed to do so securely. Only 26% of the drives were wiped properly and no data could be recovered from them, while another 16% were not accessible and could not be read. As for the rest, the data could be recovered with varying degrees of difficulty.

Worryingly, one in six people made no attempt whatsoever to wipe the data.

A similar study was conducted in 2007. Back then, the amount of recoverable data from second-hand HDDs was significantly lower. What’s more, in the older study a considerable number of the drives ended up being unreadable. Observing the rising trend of data being easily recoverable from second-hand drives, sellers should be more careful.

You can always take preventative measures, with the simplest being encrypting your hard drive so you can rest easy if you ever lose it. When it comes to wiping the hard drive you want to sell, you can check the website of your hard drive’s manufacturer, that should contain tools to help you manage the wiping process properly. Before you proceed, however, make sure you have backed up all the data you want to keep.




Share this article:
Share via emailShare via LinkedInPrint this page



Further reading:

Pwn2Own hacking contest to include industrial control systems
October 2019 , Cyber Security
As IT and OT converge under Industry 4.0 and digital transformation initiatives, security gaps are emerging in a range of popular industrial control systems.

Read more...
Stolen credentials on the Dark Web
October 2019 , Cyber Security, Security Services & Risk Management
Over 21 million credentials belonging to Fortune 500 companies, 16 million of which were compromised during the last 12 months, are up for sale.

Read more...
Stolen credentials on the Dark Web
October 2019 , Cyber Security, Security Services & Risk Management
Over 21 million credentials belonging to Fortune 500 companies, 16 million of which were compromised during the last 12 months, are up for sale.

Read more...
The importance of XDR for cyber protection
October 2019 , Cyber Security, Products
35% of South African organisations are expecting an imminent cyberattack and a further 31% are bracing for it to happen within a year, according to local research conducted by Trend Micro.

Read more...
Enterprise security must change
October 2019 , Cyber Security, Security Services & Risk Management
The recent wave of cyberattacks against local banks has highlighted the importance of protecting data against malicious users.

Read more...
Kaspersky uncovers zero-day in Chrome
October 2019, Kaspersky Lab , News, Cyber Security
Kaspersky’s automated technologies have detected a new exploited vulnerability in the Google Chrome web browser.

Read more...
Body-worn cameras transforming security
October 2019 , CCTV, Surveillance & Remote Monitoring, Security Services & Risk Management
Police Service Northern Ireland now has over 7 000 officers using 2 500 cameras covering approximately 173 000 incidents each year.

Read more...
Protecting your customers’ data
October 2019 , Training & Education, Security Services & Risk Management
Simon Murrell, head of development and executive director at BrandQuantum says companies need to protect their customers from identity theft and data breaches.

Read more...
Cybersecurity for video surveillance systems
September 2019 , Cyber Security, CCTV, Surveillance & Remote Monitoring
Video surveillance systems are increasingly accessible over any IP network, which has led to the rise of potential cyberattack.

Read more...
Cyber-securing your surveillance infrastructure
CCTV Handbook 2019, Genetec, Hikvision South Africa , Editor's Choice, CCTV, Surveillance & Remote Monitoring, Cyber Security
When it comes to cybersecurity, understanding the risks and the solutions as well as engaging in open communication helps everyone.

Read more...