Getting a new computer, notebook, tablet, or other technology can be both necessary and enjoyable. Afterwards, you may decide to dispose of your old equipment. Whether you have your device recycled, give it to a friend, or donate it to a charity, a school, or a soldier, you need to protect the information on it from exposure. However, removing your information is harder than it seems. Systems are set up to protect us from losing information we need when we delete a file, we can still get it back. Similarly, others who get your discarded computer or other devices can get it back, too.
The Need to Protect Your Information
You need to take extra steps to remove information from your computing devices before you discard them. Otherwise, you risk exposing your private information, such as insurance and banking information and account numbers; tax information and social security numbers; health information; and passwords. You face the risk of identity theft. If you have computing devices for your business, you risk exposing sensitive information, such as customer names, addresses, and accounts; and employee payroll and benefits information. At risk are your business reputation, customer confidence, liability for exposing health information, and financial losses.
Removing information from computing devices is called clearing. The National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) states that clearing is “a level of media sanitation that does not allow information to be retrieved by data, disk, or file recovery utilities. It must be resistant to keystroke recovery attempts from standard input devices [such as a keyboard or mouse] and from data scavenging tools.”