Old Storage Devices Are Prime Security Risk

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I see that International Data Privacy Day is sneaking up on us. It is tomorrow, Jan. 28. According to a release on the event:

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Eight Layers of Security Every Computer Should Have

From using the latest version of your favorite browser to ensuring that your network has monitoring tools in place that send up red flags when they see unusual behaviors, be protected.

This year, the focus of Data Privacy Day is on the protection of digital data, and as technology evolves and cybercrime increases, this is now more crucial than ever. When company hardware is not properly discarded, information is left vulnerable to recovery and potential security or privacy breaches can occur.

The release went on to point out a very interesting statistic. Nearly half of all companies are stockpiling old hard drives. That makes me wonder if anyone is keeping track of all those old hard drives, or if they are just thrown into a closet somewhere.


Let us use this day as a reminder that not all data being secured is stored on the network and not all data that is stolen is through a hacker's attack.


I remember a few years ago getting news that a professor at my university had an old laptop taken from his office. The laptop wasn't used anymore, but it had lots of old student data on it from many years ago, including Social Security numbers, which doubled as our student ID numbers back then. The professor was from my academic unit and was on staff when I was taking classes, but I never had him for a professor. I was relieved that the chances he had my information stored were slim; yet, it makes me wonder how many other old hard drives might be out there with that information. It's a concern, because as the release goes on to say:

Furthermore, what individuals and companies may not realize is that by using forensic software programs, 10,000 sensitive documents can be downloaded from improperly discarded hardware in less than 12 hours.

The folks at Naked Security spoke with Michael Kaiser, executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance, one of the sponsors of the event. In that conversation, Kaiser provided a simple but very key point to data security, "If you collect it, protect it."


That means disposing of hard drives in a safe way, which could be by using a hard drive shredder or a hard drive punch, tools that make the information stored there unable to be recovered. And whatever you do, if you have an old laptop or USB drive or any device with sensitive data stored on it, don't leave it where it can be easily stolen.