Almost half of the electronics sold on the second-hand market have personally identifiable information on them, despite repeated warnings from authorities about the dangers of not correctly erasing content.
The study, commissioned by the National Association for Information Destruction (NAID), involved more than 250 devices including hard drives, mobile phones and tablets.
The study, conducted by CPR Tools, involved downloading freely available software online and using it to extract content from devices. This shows how easy it is for criminals with minimal technological knowledge to find information on second-hand devices.
“Imagine if we had asked our forensics agency to actually dig!” said NAID chief executive officer Robert Johnson.
The devices had been used in both commercial and personal environments.
Information recovered from the devices include:
– Credit card details
– Contact info
– Usernames and passwords
– Tax details
– Company and personal data
CPR Tools chief executive officer John Benkert said people often unintendedly leave personal information on their devices.
“As data storage is included in nearly every aspect of technology today, so is the likelihood of unauthorized or unintended access to that data,” he said.
“Auction, resell, and recycling sites have created a convenient revenue stream in used devices; however, the real value is in the data that the public unintentionally leaves behind.”
Half of the second-hand tablets in the study had personally identifiable information (PII) on them, in addition to 13 per cent of mobile phones and 44 per cent of hard drives. In total, 40 per cent of devices had PII on them.
Johnson said people often think they can correctly erase all content from a device.
“We know by the ongoing audits we conduct of NAID Certified service providers that when overwriting is properly done, it is a trustworthy and effect process,” he said.
“The problem lies with service providers who are not qualified and, too often, with businesses and individuals who feel they can do it themselves.”