News release: “The Information Commissioners Office (ICO) is urging consumers to take better care of their data, following an investigation into the trade in used hard drives. The ICO has published new guidance to help individuals securely delete personal information from their old devices. An investigation by the ICO found that one in ten second-hand hard drives sold online may contain residual personal information. An ICO survey also found that 65% of British adults now hand on their old phones, computers and laptops to another user, with 44% giving it away to somebody else for free and around one in five (21%) selling it to somebody else. In December 2010, the ICO asked a computer forensics company NCC Group to source around 200 hard drives, 20 memory sticks and 10 mobile phones. The devices were mainly bought online from internet auction sites and some were sourced at computer trade fairs. The devices were then searched, initially without any additional software, and then interrogated using forensic tools freely available on the internet. The research found that, while 52% of the hard drives investigated were unreadable or had been wiped of data, 48% contained information and 11% was personal data. The amount of personal data found on the mobile phones and memory sticks was negligible. In total 34,000 files containing personal or corporate information were recovered from the devices. At least two of the hard drives contained enough information to enable someone to steal the former owners identity. The residual documents included scanned bank statements, passports, information on previous driving offences, and some medical details. A further four hard drives contained information about the employees and clients of four organisations, including individuals health and financial details.”
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