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Data in the wrong hands

Forensic Focus - December 2008

Most top companies will replace their laptops and computer systems every two to four years based on their computer replacement plan. During the use of  these systems, sensitive and confidential data is saved to the hard drive either intentionally or unintentionally. When the new computer systems are rolled out the old computers are usually auctioned off, sold, donated to charities or thrown away.

But what about the sensitive data that is left on the hard drive?

Many people believe the best way to erase information on a hard drive is by formatting it. Contrary to popular belief, formatting your hard drive DOES NOT erase data. The data is still available to anyone who has access to file recovery tools, which these days are freely available on the internet.

In August the Associated Press reported that a computer containing banking security details of more than one million people had been sold on eBay – the latest in a series of losses of personal data in Britain. The computer containing account numbers, passwords, telephone numbers and signatures was sold on EBay without the hard drive being wiped first.

In the wrong hands this sensitive data could be devastating to an organisation or individual. The outcome of such an event could result in identity theft, loss of trade secrets, irreparable damage to one’s reputation, civil or criminal liability.

Next time you are thinking of giving, selling or throwing away your old computer ensure the hard drive has been destroyed or wiped by an approved computer forensic expert and preferably, to US Ministry of Defence Standards.

For more information please contact:

Jon Pearse
Manager, Forensics

Other related articles:

Planning a fraud investigation
All is fair in love and war - relationship property disputes 
Anti money laundering – countering the financing of terrorism 
Is your identity safe?

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