I-Team: Permanently deleting computer or cell phone data

CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – Identity theft cases are more and more common. The 22News I-Team reveals how vulnerable your personal information really is.

When you get rid of a cell phone or a computer, there’s a good chance you’re leaving behind a trail of personal information.

The 22News I-Team puts several methods to the test to see if a data recovery specialist can find your information after a computer hard drive is compromised.

“The majority of people are willing to donate their computer, hand it off, sell it online, without knowing there is information on that hard drive that could get out to the general public,” said Matt Pronovost, owner of Gold Circuit E-Cycling in Ludlow.

The I-Team got several computer hard drives and tried to make them unreadable.  We threw one off the roof, smashed it with a hammer and dunked it in water.  One hard drive we didn’t touch.  Another had a hole drilled through it already.

Robert Gregory is a data recovery specialist.

(What are some of the mistakes people make when they get rid of a laptop or cell phone?)

“When you delete something from windows or any operating system, what it does is just remove the link, so it’s still on the hard drive,” said Gregory, owner of Bob’s Computer Services.

We gave him our three hard drives and a cell phone to find personal information.

Pronovost told 22News Gold Circuit E-Cycling will guarantee they destroy your hard drive.

“This bin has hard drives with no boards.  These are ready to be crushed and the process creates stretch marks on the platters so its unable to get read,” said Pronovost.

For cell phone and other small devices, Pronovost recommends shredding them. A cell phone may have your bank account password on it.

After a few days, Gregory returned with our hard drives.

(What kind of information were you able to find?)

Hard Drive that was untouched: “The one thing that was disconcerting is there is a couple of credit card statements that they downloaded on their computer, it gave their account numbers, names, address, the stuff they had bought that month,” said Gregory.

Hard Drive that was dumped in water, smashed with a hammer, and tossed off a building: “No, you did a great job with this one, it wouldn’t power up,” said Gregory.

Hard Drive that had a drill hole in it: “They drilled into the right spot on the circuit board, it wasn’t on a platter, so you would be able to get something off of this in a white room environment,” said Gregory.

A white room is a dust free environment where someone can do data recovery, even if a hard drive doesn’t turn on. But not if the platters are crushed.

Gregory told 22News if you want to try to delete your information at home, snap your cell phones sim card and drill through the platters of the hard drive. That would make it more difficult for someone to steal your information.

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