We use so many computers, laptops, and devices these days for many transactions involving sensitive personal data that we wish to protect. Credit card information, social security numbers, bank information, passwords, personal photos, and more are saved to these devices in some places we are aware of, and some we aren’t.
If you’re shopping for a new device like a new tablet or smartphone, the odds are that you will be recycling or trading in an older device. What you may not realize is how crucial it is that all of your information be removed from the older device before you relinquish it to someone else’s possession. Identity theft occurs in such ways.
Is Erasing Enough?
Deleting the data from a device or reformatting it to return it to factory settings can be a deterrent to thieves but that data can still be retrieved. Thieves can efficiently use data recovery software, and many such programs are free. To be sure your information can’t be accessed from a device you’re trading in or recycling, further measures must be taken.
Back Up Data
Before you begin, ensure any personal information on your device that you wish to keep is backed up properly. If you’re unsure about whether or not to keep a given item, ask yourself a few questions. Will you ever need the data item again? Could someone use the data against you? Would you be uncomfortable if a stranger recovered the data item?
Locate any removable storage like DVD drives, card readers, floppy drives, USB ports, and more. Remove any SD and microSD memory cards that may contain personal or application data. In the case of smartphones, you’ll want to remove the SIM card as well. For digital cameras, remove the memory card and delete anything off any existing internal storage.
Permanently Deleting Data
Formatting a hard drive on a desktop computer or laptop and wiping it clean are two different things. Formatted drives maintain retrievable data. To ensure it can’t be retrieved, that data will need to be overwritten with what’s called eraser software. Free versions of eraser software are available for PC and Mac. You’ll particularly want to erase data from a device if it’s being recycled, donated, or gifted to another party.
In the case of smartphones, tablets, and gaming consoles, you’ll want to do your homework to find the best way to permanently delete any and all information from your device, depending on what type it is and who made it. Remember to revoke access to the device from any services or apps you use.
If you’re unable to locate a method of complete data removal, contact the manufacturer, or seek professional help from IT specialists familiar with such processes. Having expert advice from someone familiar with such situations can give you real peace of mind and answer any questions you might have.
If you’re trading in, selling, or recycling a device that at any time had personal or sensitive information on it, by ensuring the complete erasure of any and all such data, you protect yourself from the ill intentions of others.