According to a recent study by the National Association for Information Destruction (NAID), 40% of discarded digital devices contain personal data or private information. Most people use their mobile devices for all sorts of day-to-day activities. From checking emails and talking to friends, family and colleagues to mobile banking and online purchases, there’s almost nothing that can’t be done on the go anymore. But when the time comes to upgrade to a new device or simply discard an old one, an alarming number of people are not taking the time to wipe their personal data.
The NAID study of 250 devices in resale markets found tablets contained the most recoverable personal information.
A significant secondary market for digital devices has emerged in recent years but the real treasure lies in the data within. That seems to be lost on the layperson, however, as people continue to leave plenty of data behind when they move on from their devices.
In the business world, this type of oversight can be dangerous if not downright disastrous, as discovered by a look at some of the data collected. Usernames and passwords, credit card and contact information, company and personal tax data, tax details and more were all recovered through the very basic measure of leveraging downloadable shareware.
“Imagine if we had asked our forensics agency to actually dig!” noted NAID CEO, Robert Johnson.
40% of digital devices available in second-hand markets for resale carry personal identifiable information (PII) unintentionally left behind by the user, according to the study. Of the more than 250 devices examined, tablets contained 50% of recoverable PII; hard drives, 44%; and mobile phones, 13%.
Even more concerning is the fact that this study was done on only a handful of devices, relatively speaking, as compared to today’s digital and mobile world, with millions and millions of people on their mobile devices every day.
“40 percent is horrifying,” Johnson added, “when you consider the millions of devices that are recycled annually.”
Johnson was sure to clarify that the results of the study were not at all an indictment of the many established commercial services that offer secure data erasure.
“We know by the ongoing audits we conduct of NAID-certified service providers that when overwriting is properly done, it is a trustworthy and effective process.”
The harsh reality is that, in our data-driven society, people simply need to be more protective of the data on their devices and not allow for even the possibility of allowing it to be delivered straight to the wrong hands. When that happens, effectively, people are hand-feeding cybercrime by neglecting what should be considered a very basic privacy practice.