Don’t get nervous, this isn’t about any intimate hygiene issues. It’s about the phones, computers, tablets, and other devices you get rid of. Maybe you give them away to a friend or family member. Perhaps you donate them to charity or trade them in for a new version. Some people just throw their outdated devices into the garbage!
However you divest yourself of unwanted devices, you are probably leaving a bunch of information on them without realizing it. This is an especially big problem for computers that use hard drive or flash storage. When you delete a file from your device, the information isn’t usually deleted. Instead, the file management system simply flags the storage space as available again. As you add new files, that space gets rewritten, but if you don’t, the information sits unseen but available to anyone with rudimentary file recovery software.
There’s a guy named Josh Frantz, and he’s a security consultant in Wisconsin. He went around to pawn shops and gathered some devices including computers, hard drives, memory cards, and cell phones. He then used a simple scanning tool and discovered:
611 email addresses
50 Dates of birth
41 Social security numbers
19 Credit card numbers
And even 2 passport numbers!
Frantz and other security folks suggest that if you want total piece of mind, you should thoroughly destroy your devices when you don’t want them anymore.
For example, you could use a drill or drill press to disfigure a hard drive, or throw your laptop into a vat of acid.
Or maybe you’d like to try using Thermite. Thermite is a mix of metal powders that, when ignited, burns hot enough to be used in welding. It’s no doubt extremely dangerous to mess around with, and you should NOT even try to get any, let alone use it. You are welcome, however, to enjoy this video of some people who used Thermite to destroy a computer: