Friday, June 19, 2009

Is Your Computer Going Green?

"I have erased all my files, it's perfectly safe to donate it, " you say. But Consumer Reports says differently after conducting a study of used computers/hard drives purchased on E-bay. In this study, Consumer Reports ran simple & inexpensive application available to somebody to determine what information may still be stored on a computer's hard drive.

Changes in needs for our personal computer, as well as updates & new application occur quickly in our every growing world of technology. As this happens, consumers often decide to "get rid of" their "old computer" & based on their needs & budget purchase another five. Depending on the original cost & condition of the computers, some people offer a trade in to dealers that can be refurbished & sold, some give them away to friends & relatives & others donate them to a charity or school. With the "recycling" of your personal computer, you may feel you have done a lovely deed & helped someone out, as well as avoid waste, making a eco-friendly & socially positive decision of how to dispose of your elderly personal computer or PC recycle. However, no lovely deed goes unpunished, & the risk to your information on your elderly computer may at the least involve identity theft. Identity theft is now the fastest growing white-collar crime & where that information on your elderly computer lands may not be a safe place. You can be sure of one thing, if you left information on your computer, there is probably someone out there that can find it, & use it.

What Do You reckon Consumer Reports Found on Used Computers from E-Bay?

*A Microsoft Word tax document including salary information

* Quicken files with expense & finance data

* A MySpace account, complete with name & password

* Lists of favorite web sites

* Outlook express e-mails

* Love letters & photographs

These computers were all described by sellers as "reformatted" or "wiped cleaned."

In a larger study, a research fellow at Harvard University examined over 1,000 hard drives & found only one third of them were properly cleaned. Microsoft Windows doesn't claim to have an easy or secure way to erase your entire hard drive & recommends using third party program. Mac OS X has a feature to permanently erase Trash files but it's been reported to be slow & only 10.3 or later versions can permanently erase entire hard drives.

Inside Edition also checked out the possibilities & probabilities of identity theft for well meaning citizens who donated their computers to lovely Will. The 25 computers purchased in the east coast hubs for as little as $30.00, as well as one computers picked up from a dumpsite held not surprising but alarming information.

Computer expert Steve Elderkin who examined the hard drives shares that "Of all the hard drives, not one was cleaned of any of the information. Depending on the hard drive itself, you could have all the data in a matter of minutes with no work."

An Arlington, VA resident who believed they had erased all of the information on his hard drive was shocked to learn that within minutes, experts had found both his & his wife's social security numbers. Social security numbers are of work a jackpot for identity thieves who can easily use a social security numbers to connect the dots for identity theft with other easy to access information. A social security number is a winning lottery number to gain access to your financial or medical credit. In addition to social security numbers, the expert found information from previously filed tax returns & passwords.

Before you donate, give away, or recycle your elderly computer, consider options like WipeDrive from who've been providing security solutions since 1998 or Eraser, which is free at it is important to thoroughly tidy your hard drives before allowing them out of your hands, if you've used your computer to make purchases, do taxes or finances or monitor bank accounts; even photographs can be much information. Make sure to completely erase your identity before you take the chance of giving it away, along with your elderly computer.

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