Computer Forensics Study: Selling More Than You Bargained For
Computer forensic examiners find a treasure-trove of information on used hard drives. While the message about the need to destroy electronic data contained on computer disks and other electronic devices when they are disposed of has been out for some time, Fulcrum Inquiry's Steve Peskaitis and Jared Schultz thought they would test how well the public is responding to the message. The sad result of their investigation: most users are at risk of having their personal information read by others. Here is what they discovered, and what the public can do about it.
Fulcrum Inquiry analyzed 70 used hard drives purchased from 14 different sources. Most of the drives purchased were supposedly cleansed of all information. Peskaitis and Schultz also asked for the process that was used to clean the drives and were usually told that the drives had been low-level formatted.
Using computer forensics, Fulcrum Inquiry attempted to recover information from these hard drives. Admittedly, the tools used by the duo are complex and technical but electronic-knowledgeable thieves can - easily - do what they did.
From the disks that actually worked, Fulcrum Inquiry recovered private data from almost two-thirds (62 percent) of the disks. Specifically:
- 37 drives (53 percent) contained recoverable information
- 23 drives (33 percent) had been properly wiped/cleaned
- 10 drives (14 percent) were non-operational
The properly cleaned drives were either (i) low-level formatted or (ii) wiped using special software that overwrites data.
A Goldmine of Personal Information
Of the 37 drives containing recoverable data, all but four were formatted in an attempt to remove data. Despite the formatting, here is the type of information which was obtained:
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