Disposing of Devices? By Melissa Esham 1/5/2016 I did a little counting. In my three person household, we have fifteen devices, not including TV’s or video games that we utilize. In an effort to optimize, I thought about limiting ourselves to 3 devices a person. I think each person could have a phone, laptop or iPad, and a Fitbit. Then I looked in the closet, garage, and under my bed. The number of unused devices is extreme, all holding some information or pictures that make me hesitate to properly dispose of the device. Prior to limiting my devices – I need to get rid of those devices no longer in use. I also need to do that safely. I used these helpful hints to help chart my path: 1. Deleting Deleting information is not effective. It removes pointers to information on your device, but it does not remove the information. This "holding area" essentially protects you from yourself—if you accidentally delete a file, you can easily restore it. However, you may have experienced the panic that results from emptying the trash bin prematurely or having a file seem to disappear on its own. The good news is that even though it may be difficult to locate, the file is probably still somewhere on your machine. The bad news is that even though you think you've deleted a file, an attacker or other unauthorized person may be able to retrieve it. Do not rely on the deletion method you routinely use when working on your device, whether moving a file to the trash or a recycle bin or choosing “delete” from a menu. Even if you “empty” the trash, the information is still there. It can be retrieved. 2. Overwriting Overwriting is effective on all computing devices. It puts random data in place of your information, which cannot be retrieved because it has been obliterated. While experts agree on the use of random data, they disagree on how many times you should overwrite to be safe. While some say that one time is enough, others recommend at least three times, followed by “zeroing” the drive (writing all zeroes). There are software programs and hardware devices available that are designed to erase your hard drive, CD or DVD—but because these programs and devices have varying levels of effectiveness, it is important to carefully investigate your options. When choosing a software program to perform this task, look for the following characteristics: · "Secure Erase" is performed. Secure Erase is a standard in modern hard drives. If you select a program that runs the Secure Erase command, it will erase data by overwriting all areas of the hard drive, even areas that are not being used. · Data is written multiple times. It is important to make sure that not only is the information erased, but new data is written over it. By adding multiple layers of data, the program makes it difficult for an attacker to "peel away" the new layer. Three to seven passes is fairly standard and should be sufficient. · Random data is used. Using random data instead of easily identifiable patterns makes it harder for attackers to determine the pattern and discover the original information underneath. · Zeros are used in the final layer. Regardless of how many times the program overwrites the data, look for programs that use all zeros in the last layer. This adds an additional level of security. 3. Physical Destruction Physical destruction is the ultimate way to prevent others from retrieving your information. Of course, you should physically destroy the device only if you do not plan to give it to someone else. Specialized services will disintegrate, burn, melt or pulverize your computer drive and other devices. If for some reason you do not wish to use a service, it is possible for you to destroy your hard drive by drilling nails or holes into the device yourself or even smashing it with a hammer. Never burn a hard drive, put it in the microwave or pour acid on it. Some shredders are equipped to destroy flexible devices such as CDs and DVDs. If you smash or shred your device yourself, the pieces must be small enough that your information cannot be reconstructed; 1/125” is ideal. Wrap the CD or DVD in a paper towel when destroying it to limit shrapnel. Magnetic devices, such tapes, hard drives and floppy disks, can be destroyed by degaussing—exposing them to a very strong magnet. Degaussers can be rented or purchased. Because of the expense, degaussing is more appropriate for businesses than for individuals. It should not be used if someone else will be using the device because degaussing destroys not only the information but also the “firmware” that makes the device run. Mobile Phone and Tablet Advice Although the exact steps for clearing all information from your mobile phone or tablet are different for each brand and model, the general process is the same: 1. Remove the memory card if your device has one. 2. Remove the Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card. 3. Under Settings, select Master Reset, Wipe Memory, Erase All Content and Settings (or a similarly worded option). You might need to enter a password you have set, or contact a local store that sells the equipment for assistance with a factory-set password. 4. Physically destroy the memory card and SIM card, or store them in a safe place. (Memory cards can typically be reused, and SIM cards can be reused in a phone that has the same carrier.) 5. Ensure that your account has been terminated and/or switched to your new device. For detailed information about your particular device, you can consult online documentation or the staff at your local store. Thanks for reading. Will you clean your device and donate it or will you take the drill to your old hard drive?