Are you ready to upgrade to a new laptop or smartphone?
Before you begin browsing the internet for the latest of gadgets and the most advanced of features they come with, you may want to spare a few minutes to think about what you’re going to do with the devices you have lying around the house.
Most households have a corner crammed with old phones, laptops. PCs, tablets, and perhaps, even servers. For the average user, data destruction doesn’t seem like something important enough. You may choose to donate the old gadgets or sell them back to the original manufacturer when you buy the new device. What you probably don’t remember is that your old gadgets carry a lot of valuable information locked away in their hard drives. In an age where cybercriminals use the most advanced of strategies to harvest the data in old gadgets, you may be handing valuable information to them on a “platter.” (Pun intended!)
Check out this feature on Experian that informs how consumers lost $905 million in the year 2017 alone because of fraud. Experts in the usage and secure disposal of digital devices have been warning about the importance of securing your endpoint gadgets. “Endpoint Gadgets” is a term that includes all the electronic devices you use that are connected through servers in a data center. The laptop, smartphone, or tablet you use could prove to be an entry point for a hacker trying to get hold of personal information for identity thefts.
In case you’ve been using your devices for work, they may contain enough sensitive company data that can endanger the interests of the vendors, customers, business partners, and any other stakeholders working in the organization. Even if you no longer work for your old company, securing its data is your responsibility.
Before donating your gadgets or taking them to a manufacturer or dealer for the purpose of exchanging for a newer device, you may want to check with a certified data destruction agency. Like the expert technicians at All Green Electronics Recycling typically suggest, choose from two alternatives for securing an old laptop:
- You can request that the agency use government-approved DOD protocols for wiping the Hard Disk Drive (HDD) or Solid State Drive (SSD). These methods involve overwriting the data multiple times so that it is impossible to decipher even if a potential hacker uses the most advanced of methods.
- You can request to dispose of the data storage device by shredding it so that the information absolutely cannot be retrieved. Later, the shards are sent to recycling plants where sophisticated machines reduce them to the alloy state so they can be reused. For added indemnity, you’ll receive a certificate which indicates the serial number of the destroyed hard drive further absolving you of any responsibility. This method is the safest form of data destruction. Of course, if you intend to sell the old gadget, you may receive a lower price since the buyer will have to buy a new hard drive. But, the security you buy in exchange is well worth the discounted rate.
If you’ve always thought that buying a smartphone from a reputable company safeguards your data, think again! As recently as in August 2018, the BGR reported an incident where a 16-year old kid hacked into Apple’s safest database and managed to harvest 90GB of data including sensitive files. Using this information, he was able to access customer accounts by deciphering log-in authorized keys that should be absolutely secure. To add insult to injury, he stored the stolen data in a folder cheekily marked, “hacky hack hack.”
When Apple detected the breach, they initiated an investigation that led them to Australia. Although the kid’s name was not disclosed since he is a minor, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) confiscated two laptops, a hard drive, and a mobile phone that the kid used for the hacking.
Should you check the internet, you’ll find some of the easiest methods to wipe the data from your smartphone or tablet before selling it. Check out this feature on CNet that explains how you should not only remove the SIM card, but also, the microSD card you’ve been using for extra data storage. Here are some of the best steps to follow.
- Save all the data in your devices by backing up on the cloud.
- Using the device, log out of all the accounts you’ve been using including email, social media, applications, bank accounts, and any other. Erasing the applications using the default setting is the ideal and usually effective way to erase the data on your phone.
- Back up the data on your microSD card by transferring the files to cloud storage. To do this, you may want to buy a SanDisk microSD reader and use it to connect the chip with your laptop or PC. Having saved all the important data, you can now conduct an encryption by selecting the Quick Format option and wipe the disk.
- If you intend to use the chip with the new cellphone, this step for data destruction is not necessary. However, experts do warn you to conduct this backup from time to time in case you lose or damage the gadget.
- Having removed the SIM card and microSD card, it is advisable to note down and store the serial number of the device before you sell it.
Even as manufacturers are working on developing new devices that are immune to attacks from hackers, it is unfortunate that the cybercriminals are getting smarter. On your part, you must take the essential data destruction steps to secure the information in your gadgets before your upgrade to the newer ones. Use the most secure data destruction practices and protect yourself from security leaks and identity thefts.