YOUR PRIVACY EXPOSED! Computer Forensics International uncovers secrets about recycled hard drives

Apr 30 21:00 2003 Stacey Kumagai Print This Article

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Computer Forensics International uncovers secrets about recycled hard drives

Los Angeles, CA --- Privacy is essential in both personal and professional business. But recently, privately held computer evidence recovery firm, Computer Forensics International (CFI) President, Mark McLaughlin & staff discovered a nationwide pattern of privacy violations found on recycled hard drives randomly purchased from major metropolitan thrift stores and on the Internet.

Undeleted files were found containing personal previous owner/activities information including legal transcripts, credit card and social security numbers, address books, emails and financial information/investment records for a “who’s who” list of major executives, politicians and celebrities!

“Using EnCase, the widely accepted forensic analysis software, our examiners found the drives showed no evidence the previous owners deleted the sensitive data, making it easily retrievable,” says McLaughlin. Fortunately, these drives landed in CFI’s hands, instead of individuals with unlawful intent. To close the privacy loop, each hard drive was permanently destroyed.

“So much focus has been placed on Internet security, that properly recycling computers containing personal information has been overlooked. With increased personal identity theft, permanently deleting data should be a priority. When recycling used computers, management must insure hard drives are wiped clean. Merely reformatting a hard drive, does not permanently delete information,” explains McLaughlin.

Most large corporations and government agencies are equipped to handle the disposal of hard drives. However, most small businesses, lack formal disposal guidelines and expertise. Legal experts warn, that companies entrusted with private data, must implement measures to safeguard their client’s information, or be faced with multi-million dollar lawsuits.

The only way to properly “shred” data is to use programs like Symantec’s – WipeInfo, or Access Data’s - Secure Clean, which permanently overwrite data, making it virtually unrecoverable.

Once only a tool used by law enforcement, computer forensic examinations are now widely used by attorneys for employment and business litigation and has proven instrumental in many criminal cases, including San Diego’s Westerfield Murder Trial, Chandra Levy’s disappearance and the terrorist attacks in 2001.

Mark McLaughlin has amassed nearly 25 years experience in computer forensic analysis, corporate security investigations, information systems management and law enforcement. He's a frequent lecturer and California State Bar qualified instructor for attorneys on computer forensics.

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Stacey Kumagai
Stacey Kumagai

Stacey Kumagai is CEO of Media Monster Communications, Inc. - a full-service public relations, marketing & media firm.

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