A study made by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) found that many individuals from the UK failed to ensure that all their sensitive data was properly erased from storage devices before selling them or giving them away. This allows fraudsters to commit crimes more easily.
The organization is urging consumers to take better care of their data and thoroughly verify devices that may store private details before handing them on. In the UK, around 65% of adults pass on their devices to other users, thus increasing the risk of identity theft and misuse.
Around 10% of sold hard drives were found to contain information that could be misused by someone with ill intent.
A report made with the help of NCC Group in December 2010 showed that 200 hard drives, 20 memory sticks and 10 mobile phones contained around 34,000 files that held private or corporate data, including financial and health records, scanned bank statements, and even passports.
“We live in a world where personal and company information is a highly valuable commodity. It is important that people do everything they can to stop their details from falling into the wrong hands,” Information Commissioner Christopher Graham said.
“Today’s findings show that people are in danger of becoming a soft touch for online fraudsters simply because organizations and individuals are failing to ensure the secure deletion of the data held on their old storage devices.
“Many people will presume that pressing the delete button on a computer file means that it is gone forever. However this information can easily be recovered.”
As a result, the ICO issued an advisory for individuals who plan on selling or giving away their devices. Organizations will also benefit from such an advisory in the upcoming period.