Consumers are constantly exposed to the latest and greatest in technology. From the faster, flashier, and smarter smartphones to the thinner but larger storage laptops, it’s easily tempting to upgrade our seemingly obsolete devices every year.
But before you accept that trade in offer or list your old device online, it’s important to stop and think about all the personal information that is stored on phones, tablets, laptops, and other electronics.
What Experts Are Saying
A study from the University of Guelph and the University of Waterloo’s Cheriton School of Computer Science surveyed people who sold their old device online and asked how they removed the existing data. The result showed that about 25% of participants did not properly and securely remove their personal data, leaving them open to hacked accounts and identity theft.
Far too often people believe that simply deleting a file removes it from the device but the experts say that even though it’s not seen, it can still be recovered. The same goes for hiding or removing accounts and passwords – there’s still a way to bring those accounts back and login without the user’s knowledge.
What You Need To Do
First, if there are any files or documents you want to keep, be sure to create a backup. For computers you can transfer those files to an external hard drive. With most smartphones, there are cloud storage options, or if you are upgrading to a similar device, you can typically transfer your documents and settings to your new phone without much hassle.
The best way to get data off your old device is to completely remove the hard drive. However, that renders the device useless, making it impossible to trade-in or sell.
The next most secure way to remove the data from your device is to do a full and complete factory reset. Each device is different but they all have a way to essentially scrub the data and overwrite it so it is no longer retrievable. This returns the device back to its original state and ready to trade in or sell.
Be sure not to forget to remove any internal storage components, like USB sticks/drives, memory cards, and the little SIM card that sits in a smartphone. All of these can contain additional pieces of person data.
Device manufacturers have been criticised for their lack of instructions to users about how they can protect their sensitive information when upgrading their device. There are many resources online including step-by-step instructions based on the device and videos that are helpful to walk you through.
For whatever reason you choose to get rid of your device it is important to be aware of the importance of protecting your sensitive and private data.
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