What is the Value of an Old Hard Drive?
There are lots of things thieves go after. Gold. Jewels. Sports cars. But according to the latest buzz,
now they're after old computers too. Is it true?
Unfortunately, signs point to yes. Information is one of the hottest commodities for criminals looking to
make a fortune, and it comes in at least three forms:
1. Theft. If criminals can get access to the bank account information or other financial data, they
can simply drain money out of accounts and, in many cases, walk away with it. This is simply a
new twist on the ancient crime of purse snatching.
2. Identity theft. Criminals can also make more complex use of personal data, using social
security numbers, insurance information and other sensitive data to commit elaborate fraud
schemes, or to create new credit cards and accounts in a victim's name to rack up a debt that
someone else has to pay off. Identity theft has rapidly become one of the most feared white
collar crimes in the United States.
3. Corporate espionage. Although not featured as often in headlines and news stories, the
corporate world remains highly competitive and access to a competitor's information carries a
high premium. It isn't clear how many dedicated corporate spies are out there, but when
criminals find secret corporate information, there is no doubt that they have a commodity that
they can sell.
While the value of information is hard to deny, many people still remain unaware of just how easy it is
to get such sensitive data, or how to prevent it. In particular, many businesses who have otherwise
sound data security practices make the astonishing mistake of throwing out old computers and data
drives. These are vectors of confidential information which are prized by intelligent criminals.
An investigation in the UK recovered more than 34,000 files from used computers, data sticks and cell
phones, and found that more than 10% of secondhand devices had recoverable confidential information
still on them. The files found included bank statements, corporate documents, medical information, tax
documents, birth certificates and passports.
Of course, can't computer drives be blanked before they are sold or thrown away? There are firms that
advertise that service, but in the world of hard drives there is no way to be 100% sure all traces of data
are gone without physically destroying the drive. Criminals can purchase "wiped" machines
secondhand and still mine them for valuable information, an effort that will usually pay off in some
Fortunately there are other options. Increasingly, companies turn to professional data destruction
services to physically shred old computers, and consumers can do the same. For a very low cost, hard
drives and data sticks can be crunched into nothing more than silicon dust, permanently destroying the
data they contained.
Don't take risks with your data or your customers' data. For information on hard drive destruction in
Fairfax, Arlington and northern Virginia, call http://www.trueshred.com, your local secure paper
shredding and computer shredding experts.