How to Erase Data Securely
January 17, 2014
View guide: How to Erase Data SecurelyFinally, that shiny new laptop is yours. Gone are the days when you had to smash your keyboard to get that stubborn letter M in place. No more lugging that heavy old computer around. And, yes, you can finally stream videos without the constant flickering of your dying LCD. Out with old and in with the new! But wait. Before you throw your old laptop out, have you double-checked your security?
Many people don’t think about the risks that come with disposing of old and busted gadgets. In truth, any device that can store data—old laptops, flash drives, data discs, smartphones, digital audio players, and the like—regardless if they’re still functioning properly, is a liable cause of information theft.
Anybody who’s determined enough to get the data they need can easily pick up a discarded gadget and mine it for the information they need. This can include account credentials they can reuse, sensitive media like photos and videos for blackmail, or top secret work files they can sell.
Deleting these files may seem to do the trick, but there are actually ways to recover them from the void. And though formatting a device looks like the best solution, it really just won’t do. If you’re really keen on wiping the slate clean, you can do one of three things:
- Wipe your data. Instead of just dumping your old data into random sectors in your machine’s memory, wiping makes sure that your old data is replaced. You can do this by using a trusted data wiping software that will overwrite all sectors of your laptop or PC.
- Degauss your drive. The process of degaussing involves magnetizing your machine’s hard drive, rendering it useless. After this process, no one will be able to access or store any data on it any longer.
- Wreck your drive, physically. This could be fun, but also a bit dangerous. When using power tools or the good old boot to destroy your device, make sure to wear protective gear. And once it’s all in pieces, make sure to throw it out properly. Check out electronics recycling or disposal centers who might find use for your junk.
Never underestimate what you throw away. Remember that one man’s trash can always be another one’s treasure.
Of course, these options are limited to data on PCs and laptops, but it’s a different matter altogether when it comes to data stored on mobile devices or even in the cloud. Our e-guide, How To Erase Data Securely, has more information on how you can permanently be rid of your digital garbage on all devices and platforms.
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