Protecting Your Hard Drive Protects You from Identity Theft

Indulging in a digital or cyber transaction is pretty much like stepping inside mud and walking, where traces of your identity and some of the most confidential information is left behind in your computers. Daily people share their financial, personal and social information in encrypted form with multiple websites to do any transaction. Any sane person would make sure that the website is completely reliable and there is no risk of leaking of this important information. But what most people easily ignore is the fact that all this data stays in your hard drive; thus preventing them from taking any precautionary measures.

It is widely known among the computer experts that, unwiped hard drives and storage devices can be a gold mine of digital information for the hackers. Each and every information from your credit card number to your email and its password can be retrieved from the hard drive. Hard drive means any device which can be used to save data ranging from the large hard disks in the computers to smaller pen drives. The amount of sensitive information your hard drives might hold could give you chill down your spines very easily.

  • Any data which you have typed, like the phone number, bank account number, addresses, emails and passwords can be retrieved easily.
  • Any document downloaded regardless of the format (May it be a .jpg or .docx) leaves its traces in the hard drive even when deleted.
  • It is believed that more than half of the hard drives contain information about previous owners. Although it should be understood that not all information can be used against you, or for identity theft.
  • Many times information and files like passport photos, bank statements are stored in these storage devices and not wiping data properly might result in easy retrieval of the data.
  • Some hard drives (like from a school or a hospital) can contain information about other individuals like client or patient information and their credit cards or account numbers.

What this could mean is a whole lot of sensitive information is available giving any hacker access not only to your personal information and social media platforms but also your financial information. Generally through such financial information, net banking can be hacked and money can be transferred easily. Your personal information and social media platforms can also be used as a leverage to blackmail you for money. There have been hundreds of cases in the past where social media is hacked and hacker asks for money to give control of the social media again.

People generally sell or donate their hard drive when they upgrade to a new one or have technical issues in the current product. This could be dangerous if proper steps are not taken. A basic misconception has to be addressed first:

  • Deleting is overrated: If you feel secure by deleting your data from the hard drive, you are surely mistaken. Emptying the data from recycle bin is also not sufficient as data can still be retrieved.

Now that we have understood the risks of identity thefts through hard drives and storage devices, it is time to understand what we can do to protect our information;

  • Wipe the disk: A much more secure way is to not only delete the data, but overwrite it fully, so the recovery becomes impossible. The old data is overwritten by adding binary codes to it. As this is a complex procedure of deleting the files first and overwriting them afterwards, it might take a lot of time, but you would be much safer.
  • Destroying the disk: Hammering the disk, as fierce as it may sound, is actually quite safe. Destroying the disk is the safest and easiest way to secure yourself. But make sure you do not injure yourself while hammering it. Many times the metal frame or plastic components fly and can hurt sensitive parts like eyes. You should make sure to wear gloves and protective gear and destroy important components like ports and disk completely.
  • Disassembling the disk: If you do not like much violence and would like to destroy the device silently, you can disassemble it and destroy the platter disc where information is stored. However specialized instruments would be needed for disassembling the disk.

It is clear from the above that your choice of solution would totally depend on what you intend to do with the disc. If you want to sell or donate the hard drive further, you cannot destroy it, hence wiping (deleting and overwriting) would be the best choice. If you have no use for the hard disk, you can simply hammer it, which would help you to save your time.

It becomes imperative to make sure where your hard drive is going or being disposed. If you are doubtful whether your drive has been wiped perfectly or not, better give it to a family member or a trusted friend. If you have destroyed it, you can give it to agencies which recycle the materials (as it contains metal and plastic) and can do your bit to reduce E-waste.