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Thinking of giving away your old PC? Think again. A recent study by an agency in the United Kingdom found that nearly 10% of all secondhand hard drives contained personal information, including phone numbers, addresses, and even bank account and credit card information.
Since these hard drives are passed from one owner to another, the presence of personal data poses a serious security threat. Some hackers make a habit of buying old hard drives solely to mine personal data from them and then use that data for malicious purposes. They may hack into your bank accounts, for example, or use your identity to take out lines of credit or perform other financial transactions.
The biggest problem with the secondhand hard drive market is the fact that many people think pressing ‘delete’ will permanently remove any files on their system. After you’ve cleared a file from your computer’s Recycle Bin, it isn’t actually deleted until you overwrite it with another file. In fact, ‘emptying the Recycle Bin’ simply tells your computer that a certain area of hard drive space can be overwritten. If that hard drive space is never overwritten, then a hacker can retrieve the files with relative ease.
This study reinforces a study done by a New York PC security firm, which concluded that nearly 40% of hard drives purchased from eBay contained sensitive personal data. Using these hard drives, the PC security firm was able to extract everything from Social Security Numbers to browser history.
Since more and more people are now giving away old cell phones and laptops instead of simply keeping them or throwing them out, identity theft will continue to be a problem in the near future. With more of our lives moving online every day, it has never been easier to impersonate somebody’s identity online.
How to prevent identity theft from happening to you
To protect yourself, download a powerful antivirus scanner that can permanently delete files on your hard drive. Using a program like this is not only an effective way to wipe a hard drive, but they’re also great at protecting your computer from malicious phishing attacks and other attempts to steal your identity.
Read more about this study HERE.