New Delhi, Dec 25: Before disposing off old gadgets like hard disk drives or mobile phones, you need to ensure that data is securely wiped -- not just formatted -- by a recognised software data erasure to avoid passing sensitive data to strangers, hackers and cyber criminals, warns a study. The findings, applicable to both individuals and corporates, showed that nearly all hard disk drives available on second-hand marketplace sites contain a huge amount of confidential data. "Most consumers in India are unaware that data can be recovered from their legacy drives and mobiles and steps like formatting are not enough for ensuring data privacy," said the study by data migration solutions provider Stellar Data Recovery. Consequently there is a grave risk of private and confidential data from these legacy devices being passed onto the buyer of such devices. The study exposed the non-familiarity of the vast majority of Indians with data sanitisation methods, often referred to as data erasure methods or data wipe methods, wipe algorithms, and data wipe standards. As part of the study, multiple hard disk drives were purchased from a major online platform which facilitates buying and selling of second-hand products.
For the sample collected, sensitive and high-risk data was uncovered in 100 per cent of the cases, the study released this week said. The researchers found that the majority of the drives purchased for this study were formatted but not wiped using any correct method. After running a simple 'Do It Yourself' data recovery software available online, huge amounts of data contained in the files was recovered in a short period. In one such hard disk drive, the comprehensive business details of an automotive showroom, including monthly sales, historical sales records, pricing list, feedback forms and complete customer information comprising names, addresses and contact numbers was identified. In another case, complete personal information comprising name, age, PAN card details, date of birth, phone contact list, bank statement, credit card statements, personal photographs, software, music and videos were recovered. The study also highlighted that not only are individuals at risk for identity theft and leakage of sensitive personal information but also the companies are at an increased business risk and financial risk as well. Erasing data using a regulatory compliance software is a sustainable technique over physically destroying the storage media, said Stellar Data Recovery.