Beware the memory on used digital devices
Here’s a lesson for the digitally unwary – an increasing number of people are finding their identity and personal information is being stolen after they sell their used digital storage devices.
Private and confidential information such as banking details, passwords, family details, home addresses, birthdays, relatives and business dealings are among the most common files found on second hand memory cards and USB sticks.
A University study found that on more than half of 78 memory cards bought over the internet the previous owners had made no attempt to remove data. Nineteen even included messages requesting the buyer remove data left on the cards.
As well as credit card details, the cards contained government documents as well as potentially embarrassing sexual images and videos.
Edith Cowan University researcher Krishnun Sansurooah told WA Today they also looked at 80 second hand USB sticks bought through the internet. Only six had been wiped completely.
More than half contained information that could be used in a malicious way and 42 included personal information including bank details.
Mr Sansurooah said pressing delete or formatting an item was not sufficient to remove information.
“If you do this, it is still there residing in the memory. What you delete is just the pointer, pointing to it,” he said.
While there is software that can be purchased or downloaded for free to override all data on a device, experts urge people simply not to on-sell digital storage devices.
Legal experts on the impact of identity theft say the $20 or so you might get from selling a card that originally cost $30 simply isn’t worth it.
Identity theft is a multi-million dollar fraud industry, and once in the clutches of a scammer using your identity it is extremely difficult and inconvenient to overcome. (For more information please see Australian victim of identity theft receives US$1.2 million damages bill from US court.)
Someone who has your personal details can steal money from your accounts or use your credit card. They can pretend to be you and take out a loan before disappearing with the money. The first you know about it is when debt collectors knock on your door.
Another study found more than two thirds of USB sticks found on trains were infected with strains of malware, computer virus programs that invade your computer files and steal information. So don’t sell used digital memory devices, and don’t use any you find either.
It might not be environmentally virtuous, but the best thing you can do with a used digital storage device is to snap it in half, cut it up and drill a hole through it. Then burn it.