Last month, reports the Christian Science Monitor, researchers in Britain decided to find out if people left anything behind when they sold or donated their old computer. They bought 300 used machines in several countries and from a number of sources, including eBay.
What did they find? About one-third still contained personal data on the hard drives, data that was located with just a little digging. Among the items rooted out: the test-launch information for ground-to-air defense missiles; medical records from hospitals; Social Security numbers; and proprietary commercial documents, such as business plans.
The disturbing conclusion: Even large organizations, which have legal obligations to protect their data, are sometimes lax about removing them thoroughly from discarded computers.
Here are some ideas on how to protect yourself and your personal data when discarding an old computer.