The protection of personal data on the internet is very important. However, we often think we are protected, while we are not actually. For example, changing passwords and encoding is not enough. In addition, many people tend to sell or recycle their old appliances without thinking about the consequences. A survey by security firm Rapid7 has shown that devices sold in second hand shops have the personal data of previous owners.
Josh Frantz, a researcher at Rapid7, bought used ones electronic devices from stores that are supposed to take care to "clean" the appliances before selling them. He bought 41 computers, 11 hard drives, 6 mobile phones, memory cards and flash drives.
Within them, Frantz discovered more than 366.000 files (documents and images). He had access to very personal information such as social security numbers, credit card numbers, driving licenses and passports.
"When I got a computer I started to see if it worked properly and needed a password to connect. I wrote a script on PowerShell, which finds all the pictures, documents, stored E-mail and conversation history. Then all this was organized on the desktop and I could get it with a USB drive, "he wrote on a blog post.
According to Frantz, if you want to sell or recycle your devices, you have to clean them up first. It's the only way to protect your data from aspiring thieves. However, simply doing a factory reset is not enough.
Frantz showed how we can "clean" an Android device. The first step is to encode our data through an application, and the second is to restore factory settings. With regard to iPhone and iPad, the reset can be done as follows: settings> general> reset> erase all content and settings. According to Frantz, if one wants to recycle his old device but be sure he will not leak his personal data, it's better to destroy it and burn it out as long as there are no toxic byproducts.
"If you are worried that your data will end up in the wrong hands, destroy the data," he said. "If you want to do a good job and give someone your old device, make sure you remove your personal data. Only if you do it yourself can be sure that the "cleaning" has taken place.