Do you have a new device? 7 things to do before you get rid of your old gadget


Digital security

Before you get rid of your device that you no longer need, make sure it doesn’t contain any of your personal documents or information.

Do you have a new device?  7 things to do before you get rid of your old technology

The planet is warming and we are all becoming more environmentally conscious. In terms of IT, this is manifested by an increase in the recycling of “electronic waste”. This could be a laptop or desktop computer, a smartphone or a fitness tracker. The more data there is, the more likely you are to be at risk if it ends up in the hands of a cybercriminal. But the risks don’t stop there. Even equipment not destined for the recycling landfill can end up in the hands of a nefarious actor.

The world produced 53.6 million tonnes of e-waste in 2019, an increase of 21% from the previous five years, according to the latest report. United Nations data. This presents a lot of potential dangers. So take a second to familiarize yourself with the main risks associated with e-waste, and the next time you’re ready to dispose of a device, do so safely.

What are the risks ?

The devices we use are a gateway to our digital lives. This means that they both store some of our most valuable information on their hard drives and allow us to access our various online accounts. As much as we would like it to, this data does not disappear into thin air once we stop using the gadgets.

But what many people don’t realize is that even if we “delete” it from the hard drive, a professional could recover some or all of it using file recovery tools. In some cases, they have even managed to recover data from physically destroyed hard drives. This can include photos of friends and family, emails, bank statements, sensitive documents like wills or scans of passports and driving licenses, medical information, insurance details, etc.

There is additional risk. More of us than ever are working from home, at least some of the time. This means that our laptops and personal devices may also contain sensitive corporate data and credentials. Employers are unlikely to look kindly on workers whose poor cyber hygiene leads to a massive breach of company data.

The essential : With the right tools, an attacker could piece together fragments of data left on recycled or discarded devices to reconstruct entire files and find sensitive connections to your personal and work accounts. They could use this information to:

  • Impersonating your identity in identity theft attacks, such as opening new lines of credit in your name or misappropriating and emptying bank accounts
  • Blackmailing you with sensitive medical or personal information, or photos they find
  • Use corporate connections to access your employer’s computer network, to steal data or deploy ransomware. ESET research carried out earlier this year highlighted how discarded routers could be used for this purpose

A 2019 report by e-waste recycler ERI estimates that a quarter of all data breaches in the United States are caused by negligence, including improper disposal of e-waste.

7 Ways to “Retire” Old Gadgets

Sometimes even the most harmless devices can get you into trouble. Research of a few years ago revealed that two-thirds of USB drives sold on eBay still contained personal information. Even old IoT devices or smart gadgets could be hacked to discover your Wi-Fi password.

Here are seven steps to safer and more secure e-waste disposal:

1. Back up your most important information

Consider what you want keep your old device. Chances are there won’t be much on something like a fitness tracker or smart TV. But it is likely that there are important documents, photos and/or videos on a laptop, desktop or smartphone/tablet. Determine whether you want to transfer them to your new device or save them to a cloud storage platform like iCloud or Google Drive. Alternatively, or in addition to the above, you can save to an external hard drive/storage device. Make sure you buy one with enough capacity.

2. Log out of all accounts

Make sure you are logged out of any accounts you may have accessed on the device/machine to be eliminated. This means that if they are recycled and remain accessible in some way, another user will not be able to use your streaming or racing account for free.

3. Transfer or deactivate the software

Determine which, if any, software you paid for you want to transfer to a new device. There should be information in the app or online to facilitate the deactivation and transfer process.

4. Remove the SIM/SD card

If the device has a SIM or SD card, remove it. If you want to keep the same phone number, call the operator and transfer your SIM card to your new phone. Otherwise, destroy it. If your phone has an SD memory card for storage, remove it.

5. Erase your hard drive

Once you’ve backed up everything important, it’s time to delete everything from the machine/device you’re going to get rid of. You will need to perform a factory reset to ensure all data is deleted. The steps needed to achieve this will depend on the operating system. There is clear advice here to:

6. Use data erasing/disk formatting tools

If you’re still worried that a factory reset might not be enough, consider using a third-party disk wiping tool such as Erasing the disk Or Active KillDisk. Be sure to do your research and find a reputable provider with a good track record.

7. Physically destroy the hard drive

Another option for those who are unsure whether their data was erased via software is to physically remove the hard drive and destroy it. A hammer is the best way, but be sure to wear protective glasses and gloves. There is a practical guide here.

These days, consumer devices seem to have a shorter and shorter shelf life. And you only have limited storage space in your home. Recycling or disposing of e-waste is therefore a necessity, but doing so securely is essential to mitigating the risk of identity theft. Follow these seven steps for peace of mind.

RELATED READING: Protect the Joy: 10 Tips for Securing Your Shiny New Device

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