When buying or selling electronic equipment such as desktop or laptop computers make sure to remove, replace and destroy the hard drive. Simply reformatting the hard drive is not enough. This process does not completely wipe your sensitive information from the hard disk, but only cleans some of the information off of it. The reason for this is called “Hard Drive Defect”. This is an area of the hard drive that the reformat simply cannot overwrite. There are other forms of hard drive destruction or erasure such as drilling, overwriting, or degaussing, however, any forensic investigator can still extract information that was on the disk. The only sure method of destruction is by crushing your hard drive using an HD Hammer, which destroys the hard drive platter. This method assures that your information is permanently irretrievable. Make sure that you are using a company that is NAID certified to destroy hard drives. NAID certification assures you that the company destroying your hard drive has gone through stringent policies and procedures to insure your hard drive is properly destroyed and recycled. Examples of strict NAID standards are using bonded employees, that the facility is secure and monitored 24/7, the materials destroyed and recycled are done so by using “cradle to grave” recyclers located in the U.S. that keep your sensitive information from being recycled in foreign countries.
Know where your desktop or laptop computer is being recycled. Every couple of years researchers try and see just how much personal information they can find on hard drives sold through the open, second hand market. Hard drives are obtained on the open, second hand market, usually from a range of resellers, but always include some obtained through eBay. The researchers examine the hard drives for personal or confidential information and report that about one-third of the hard drives contain personal information. There have been at least 5 of these studies in the last 6 years; always turning up some personal information.
Do other electronics besides computers contain hard drives? YES! Surprisingly not many people realize just how many electronics created these days have a hard drive in them. As shown on 60 minutes, some electronics such as printers, copiers and facsimile machines do in fact contain a hard drive. This may not see like a big deal, after all what could those electronics hold in terms of information. They keep a copy of the documents sent to them and store that information on the hard drive. These hard drives hold only a certain amount of information and do eventually overwrite bits and pieces of information but always contain the most recent information just processed through them. Simply recycling these electronics and keeping them out of landfills is not enough these days.
There have been numerous privacy breaches over the years which have lead to state and federal governments becoming involved and creating several acts and rules to safe guard consumers as well as the businesses that house this sensitive information. The most recognized acts and rules are the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, Sarbanes Oxley Act, Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA), and Red Flag Rules. Information disposal is already one of the largest concerns to the consumers and businesses, and avoiding the consequences of improper disposal is of major importance when selecting vendors to process and destroy equipment containing such sensitive information.