Thursday, June 7, 2007

Identity Theft with Obsolete Computers

We are coming to a point in time when many people are replacing their computers with a new faster and sleeker versions that will do just about everything they need to keep up with the multi-media world we now live in.

Judging by the age of the internet going mainstream, it will likely be your 3rd replacement with the last two really being used with much of your personal information embedded somewhere on the hard drive. Ten years ago you thought nothing of donating it to a school, or giving it to another family member or even the local Salvation Army.

If you still think that way today about disposing of that old PC, don’t! Yes you want to do the right thing, help out, be conscious of the environment, or any other good reason you may come up with for not just discarding it. But before you take that step, think about identity theft first. Your personal information from the last few years is somewhere on that hard drive. Sure you deleted it, formatted it, cleaned it, but to a persistent thief, they can dig up anything with a little effort, and they do.

Thieves pick them up on auction sites, at garage sales, in used shops, flea markets, all loaded with personal information.

There are software products in the market ranging from $30-$60 that guarantee you that they will wipe that hard drive clean to department of defense standards. I am not denying the validity of these nor endorsing them, but there are other surefire alternatives.

1)Remove the hard drive before giving the PC to anyone, a replacement will cost very little to the recipient verses buying a new PC.

2)Replace the hard drive and designate that PC as a “kids only” PC, let them download all the spyware and viruses while they fileshare using P2P networks. The keylogger they pick up will find nothing good on

3)Replace the hard drive yourself then donate it or give it away.

4)Recycle the entire PC, but remove the hard drive first. Call your local waste management office to find out how, many designate special days for these items.

5)Keep the PC forever and never let it leave the house (some are sentimental about everything)

So what do you do with that old hard drive that you removed? Just pick your weapon of choice and destroy it. Toss it on the grill for a half hour, smash it with a baseball bat, drill a half dozen holes in it, place it in your tool box and use it when you can’t find that hammer.

All this may seem extreme and time consuming, but the hassle of identity theft is much worse.