Washington, Nov 6 : Computer hard drives- that have been disposed of or sold into the second-hand market by corporations, organizations, and individuals-still carry sensitive data that may pose a big security threat.
That's what an ongoing research has suggested which claims that a huge amount of private data is usually left on redundant computer hard disks.
According to the authors, such data represents a significant level of risk for commercial sabotage, identity theft, and even political compromise, and suggest that better education is essential to reduce the risk of harm. Not many know that simply deleting a file from the hard disk does not actually remove it from the computer but only deletes its entry in the index for the hard drive.
To scrape off all traces of a file requires the actual data to be wiped using "digital shredding" software, which is readily available and should be run as a high priority by individuals, companies and organizations intending to pass on their legacy computer hardware to third parties.
For the study, the researchers analyzed data that remained on a number of second hand hard disks that had been obtained on second-hand markets.
"The research revealed that a significant proportion of the disks that were examined still contained considerable amounts of information, much of which would have been of a sensitive nature to the organization or individual that had previously owned the disk," explained the researchers.
They further said that the percentage of disks that have been effectively wiped had significantly fallen from 45 percent to 33 percent, since the previous year's survey.
"With only 33 percent of working second-hand disks having been effectively wiped, it is reasonable to comment that this is an area where there is significant potential for improvement," they said.
The authors have made several recommendations for improved data security - with regard to hard disks and other storage media, including memory cards, mobile phones, and other devices.
They have also suggested that public awareness campaigns by Government, the media, commerce and/or academia ought to be run to help reduce the risk of sensitive data entering the information black-market.
The initial results for the study show that there is still a long way to go regarding the decommissioning of computer hard disk drives.
The study will be published in the International Journal of Liability and Scientific Enquiry.