Recycled computers found to contain highly sensitive personal information

Recycled computers contain a worryingly high amount of sensitive personal information according to the National Association for Information Destruction (NAID), the non-profit data protection watchdog agency.

In a recent study, the NAID randomly purchased 52 recycled hard drives and found that 30% of devices still contained highly confidential personal information. The information found on the devices ranged from bank account numbers, account details and personal information, medical information to legal case records.

The study was rather simple according to NAID CEO Bob Johnson."The procedure used to find the information is intentionally very basic and did not require an unusually high degree of technical heroics," he said.

According to stats from the ABS, over 15 million computers are retired annually and so the amount of private data potentially out there at risk is staggering.

Mario Bekes, managing director of the forensic investigation firm Insights Intelligence who was hired to conduct the survey for the NAID said that in most instances where they found personal information there were telltale signs that someone had attempted to remove the information but failed to effectively do so.

"Proper removal of data from computer hard drives requires more than just pressing the delete button," he said. "It is not really a do-it-yourself project."

While people are encouraged to recycle computers, tablets and smartphones it is important to ensure that the recycling company has the proper technical expertise and takes data destruction seriously.

Financial comparison website Mozo has advised Australian consumers not to share any personal financial information on social media and to monitor credit card and bank accounts statements frequently to ensure that all payments to and from accounts are legitimate and reduce the risk of identity theft.