One man’s trash is another man’s new identity? Yes, because that “junk mail” you toss in the garbage contains valuable data about yourself. A crook bent on identity theft can potentially have a field day with your discarded pre-approved credit card applications, bank statements, etc. Using a paper shredder before throwing out letters and documents such as these will help protect you and your family.
You should take this same vigilant approach when recycling your devices, whether that be your computer, external hard drive, mobile phone or tablet. This ensures no matter where your recycled device ends up, you can feel secure knowing it contains zero data about you—and a factory reset will not necessarily achieve this.
Here’s how to “clean” the data on your mobile device:
- Do a factory reset. Every mobile phone contains software to do this.
- To reset Android: Menu > Settings > Privacy > Factory Data Reset
- To reset Blackberry: Options > Security Options > General Settings > Menu > Wipe Handheld
- To reset iPhone: Settings > General > Reset > Reset All Settings
- For other phones, you can find out how to reset by doing an online search using the appropriate keywords, including the model number.
- Get rid of data that is on external media, like SIM or SD cards, Your best bet is to cut them in half.
- You can use a mobile security product like McAfee Mobile Security, to wipe your smartphone or tablet clean of all its apps and data.
- To be absolutely sure your mobile data is protected, just break your phone or tablet into pieces…remember, the cost of getting your identity stolen is much higher than whatever you might make from selling your used device.
How to “clean” the data on your computer:
Before you get rid of your computer, you must make sure that it’s impossible to recover the data on the hard drive. Simply putting things in the trash can and deleting them is not enough. If someone is skilled enough, they can almost always retrieve data left over on a hard drive. It’s your choice on how tough you make it for your computer’s new owner to do that. So don’t rely on these tasks.
- Use a utility designed for wiping or erasing. This tool will overwrite everything with binary 1’s and 0’s. In fact, these tools meet government security standards and will overwrite each sector in your hard drive multiple times. McAfee Shredder, in which is included with McAfee LiveSafe™ service, is one of these tools. It will permanently wipe everything off your PC to protect your privacy.
- As with your mobile device, another option is to physically break your hard drive or computer into tiny pieces.
This Earth Day, join the movement and demonstrate support for environmental protection—just make sure to protect yourself first!
Robert Siciliano is an Online Security Expert to McAfee. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Mobile was Hacked! Disclosures.