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Disposing of Your Mobile Devices

Mobile devices like laptops, smartphones, and tablets are everywhere. And the technology in these devices is advancing at an amazing rate. And as a result, to stay on top of the latest technology and most recent improvements, you may be replacing your devices every year or two. But do you ever think about all your personal data that is stored on each and every one of these devices before you get rid of it?

Computers and smartphones aren’t the only devices that capture and store sensitive personal data. Smartwatches, external hard drives, USBs, tape drives, embedded flash memory, other wearables, networking equipment, and office tools like copiers, printers, and fax machines all contain valuable personal information.

Before you sell it, trade it in, give it away, recycle it or have it destroyed you should make sure these devices are clean and “wiped” of all your sensitive data.

Companies that supply mobile devices to employees for work must have processes to manage the security of mobile devices and the sensitive data on them. And you should also have processes to manage the security of your own personal mobile devices and the data – your data – that is stored on them.

If you have a stash of old hard drives or other devices, even if they are locked away, information still exists and could be stolen. Don’t wait: wipe and/or destroy unneeded hard drives and other devices as soon as possible.

Simply deleting data and emptying the trash isn’t enough to completely get rid of a file. You must permanently delete old files. Use a program that deletes the data, “wipes” it from your device, and then overwrites it by putting random data in place of your information ‒ that cannot be retrieved.

Various overwriting and “wiping” tools are available for electronic devices. For devices like tape drives, you should perform a full factory reset and verify that no potentially sensitive information still exists on the device.

Now that your device is clean, you can sell it, trade it in, give it away, recycle it or have it destroyed so you can feel free to enjoy your newest piece of technological wonder.

Please note: failed drives still contain data. And wiping a failed drive often fails too; so shredding/destruction is the practical disposal approach for failed drives.

To be “shredded,” a hard drive must be chopped into small pieces: Using a hammer to hit a drive only slows down a determined cybercriminal; instead, use a trusted shredding company to dispose of your old hard drives.

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