If you have a few old hard drives lying around, you might be thinking about selling them to make some extra cash. However, there are a few traps you can end up falling into when you decide to sell your hard drive that you’re going to want to avoid. A study has recently shown that people who sell their old used hard drives and SSDs aren't taking the steps they need to take to wipe data from them. This is dangerous for obvious reasons; one of the biggest ones being that the buyer can access personal information, and even corporate data in some cases.

This study was completed by Blancco Technology Group in a report entitled 'The Leftovers: A Data Recovery Study'. In this study, 200 drives were bought from ebay and craigslist. 93% of what was purchased were hard drives, and the rest were SSDs. The forensics experts then began testing out the drives, and recovered at least some data from 78% of the pieces. 67% of the used drives held personally identifiable data, and 11% of them still held sensitive corporate data that could be extracted. These figures are worrying when you really think about them.

So what did the experts manage to extract?

  • They managed to take company emails from 9% of drives
  • spreadsheets including things like sales projections from 5%
  • actual customer data from 3%

What about personal information?

  • Photos were recovered from 43% of the drives
  • social security numbers from 23%
  • financial data from 21%
  • and CVs from 10%.

Keeping customer data safe should be one of the biggest concerns of any company. Both individuals and businesses are clearly putting their sensitive information at risk when selling their hard drives.

Traps Not To Fall Into When Selling Your Hard Drive

Deleting Your Files Doesn’t Mean That They Are Gone

There are places that sell hard drives in bulk, and there’s a good chance that most of these hard drives contain very sensitive information that the original owner wouldn’t want anybody else to see. Deleting files and then emptying the recycling bin doesn’t get rid of the data. The data remains on the physical drive until it's overwritten by fresh data. Even formatting doesn't actually erase the data from the physical drive, and data is still potentially recoverable. However, there is a way you can get rid of your data and make sure nobody else can recover it.

What To Do

To make sure the data is completely gone from a hard drive or an SSD, You need to ensure you're actively overwriting all traces of data. This should be done numerous times so that nothing can be recovered. Doing this before you sell your SSD or hard drive will give you nothing to worry about. This is especially important if your hard drives could contain sensitive business information, such as customer data. Be smart and taking the time to do this before selling them on.

Do you fear that you’ve fallen into this trap when selling your hard drive? Leave your thoughts and ideas below. Thanks for reading!

Walter Guevara

Walter G. is a software engineer with over 10 years of professional experience. When he isn't blogging or being a CTO he enjoys coding randomly complex things that he hopes many people will get a chance to use one day.

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