You’ve got rid of an old disk drive, computer or mobile phone and you thought all your problems related to your old device disappeared like magic. Well, unfortunately not. All this is not as simple as you expected. Your data might become accessible to unscrupulous third parties and your moment of elation will probably disappear very quickly.
We have investigated how the second hand device dealers deal with data management. Our research was conducted among companies selling second hand devices on the most popular online auction websites in Europe. Nearly all participants knew that the drive should be wiped clean but, as it turned out, their knowledge of effective methods for data erasure was quite poor.
Hard disk and solid-state drives were first to be examined by us closely. The results of the research shows that up to 80 per cent of surveyed dealers format drives before sending them to a new owner. What’s more, they consider formatting as a sufficient method of data erasure. This practice is widely used by dealers because it is not only time-saving but also reduces selling expenses; however, formatting is not truly effective if we want to permanently erase data off a hard drive.
Next, we decided to check out the smartphone sellers and here the situation is much better. Most frequently, they restore the smartphone to factory settings (66 per cent) which guarantees an effective data erasure in most smartphones available on the market. Nevertheless, up to 20 per cent of them perform manual clearing and believe it to be the best choice as the applications downloaded by the former user will remain on the device. Unfortunately, this method in practice usually means that the new owner will receive not only their new mobile phone but also all the previous owner’s app data with little effort. Remember – manual erasure under no circumstances will guarantee your files to be safe.
The results show that almost every third participant of the survey does not realise how important the data erasure process is and according to three per cent of them it is completely irrelevant. Don’t be surprised, then, if your data will fall into the wrong hands or conversely, you suddenly get access to others’ photos and app data etc.