Think of the damage that could have been done.

One of the places my friend and I like to visit is the local recycling centre. You never know what you’re going to find there, and always at an absolute bargain of a price. This week I saw a laptop there. Time for an upgrade on my laptop for a faster version, plus I already had a donor for my old one. I’ve also got RAM and an SSD drive that’ll speed this one up. Everyone’s a winner!

I’m told by the place that it’s had a fresh install of Windows, but as I’m upgrading the drive to an SSD anyway, there’ll soon be an even newer install. First job, add in the extra RAM. All works fine. While checking things out, I get a notification of an email. I can imagine some of you already know where this is going. Yup, I was not only able to access the former owner’s email account, featuring bank and Paypal information, but look through all the documents still left on the drive too. Luckily I’m an honest person. With all the information I had in front of me, I could have easily done some serious damage. It was an absolute goldmine for a bad guy. I made sure to completely wipe it anyway before swapping it out.

A number of years ago, I bought a hard drive at the local market/car boot sale. This one had the person’s CV and a topless photo taken on a webcam in among the documents. That one got wiped pretty damn quick too!

What options are there to protect your data then? There are free programs out there that will completely wipe a hard drive, replacing all the data either with zeros or random data. Another way is to completely reinstall Windows and use the option to reformat the drive first. You could remove the drive and sell the PC without one. There are even places you can send your old drive to be shredded. Whatever option you choose, do something. The next person who gets your system may not just use it as a topic for a blog post.