Technology is continuously being upgraded, and many consumers are trying to keep up by continually renewing their electronic equipment and gadgets. One concern, however, is whether or not they can completely erase their personal and private data from these devices before choosing to recycle the electronics.
Before any electronic device or equipment can be donated or recycled, you must remove all data altogether. The data can be anything from personal information, addresses, and credit data to business financial information or customer/patient information. Failure to properly erase all data from electronic devices, especially sensitive information, breaches patient/consumer/business privacy and security.
If data in electronic media such as USB flash drives, hard drives, and DVDs are not properly removed, then any recovered data can be used for identity theft or appropriation of fake bank accounts, credit products, or even insurance products. Donated and sold computers have been found in auctions and other secondary markets while still containing personal information. Depending on the type of data exposed, it can even be more valuable than the equipment itself.
Deleting the Files is Not Enough
Many people don’t realize that simply deleting files and documents on your computer or mobile phone is not enough. Any data or files sent to the recycle bin can be easily restored in their original form. Even deleting files from the recycle bin is not enough because they still reside on the hard drive. While the erased data cannot be accessed directly, it can be recovered using special programs. So, you must take additional measures to ensure that the data has been securely erased.
How to Securely Erase Data
Before getting rid of any electronic equipment and devices, you should start by moving or backing up all your valuable documents and media files. Then, sign out of your various online accounts, after which you can wipe the disk using a secure erasing tool or destroying the hard drive.
A secure erasing tool works by overwriting the data multiple times, so it becomes impossible to access it forensically. There are several free and premium secure erasing tools and software available on the internet. Since these tools are regularly updated and new products released, you should either seek professional help from an IT specialist or go through product reviews to narrow down your options and find the most suitable erasing software for your electronic device.
To erase all data and applications from old hard drives in computers, tablets, and mobile phones, you can start by doing a full reset of the operating system. This process depends on your type of operating system:
- For Android devices, you should go to the Settings app > System > Advanced > Reset Options. Choosing the “Factory Reset” option will allow you to erase all data.
- For iOS devices, you should go to the Settings app > General > Reset > Erase all Content and Settings.
- For Mac devices, begin by restarting macOS, and as it starts to boot up, hold “Option+Command+R” and release the keys when the spinning globe appears. Choose “Continue” and follow the on-screen instructions to clean the hard drive.
- For Windows devices, you should load the Settings application in Control Panel > Update and Security > Recovery > Reset this PC. Select the option to remove all personal files to wipe all data.
- For Chrome devices, go to the Settings pane > Advanced > Powerwash.
For most devices that use SSD storage or flash, this process should be sufficient to wipe all data and make it extremely difficult to recover, except for determined data recovery specialists. If you’re still concerned about data recovery, you can remove the hard drive and physically destroy it using a hammer or drill, but be careful not to injure yourself. Alternatively, you can use specialist facilities to help you erase extremely sensitive data, especially if you feel that the data may be targeted.
Businesses that routinely update their electronic equipment should have an effective computer, and information security practises in place to ensure that all data is completely removed before disposal of the equipment. Remember to back up important information before beginning the data removal process.
If you don’t plan on selling or donating your device, make sure that you dispose of it correctly with a program that recycles electronics to reduce the impact on the environment. There are several options to accomplish this, like returning the device to the company that manufactures it. If your device is in good condition, you can get a cashback deal for a new purchase. Other programs allow you to trade in your old device for a worthwhile exchange.
Electronics recycling programs vary from place to place, so you can find an appropriate one near you to safely get rid of your old computer, laptop, or mobile device.
For more information on erasing data before disposal, contact eCycle Solutions toll free at (888) 945-2611 or contact us here.