Graham Cluley

Organisations fear Data Theft from old laptops

September 25th, 2013

It often happens that many companies give or sell their old laptops to the computer firm from which they buy new laptops. The computer firm, such as Dell, then sells them to a firm that refurbishes laptops, which in turn sells them on eBay.

These Companies sometimes do not wipe the data from the laptops and assume that computer firm will wipe the data. But sometimes, the data wiping falls through the cracks.

That is what recently happened to U.K. film maker Glenn Swift, who returned a faulty Acer laptop to Sainsbury, where he initially bought it. Sainsbury told Swift that they needed to return the laptop to the manufacturer to have it fixed.

“But then, six days later, out the blue, I received an email from a gentleman who informed me he had just purchased a second-hand laptop on eBay. It still had my profile on it and he asked for my password to allow him to unlock it. Alarm bells started ringing,” told Swift.

Swift said “It was then I realised just how much information a Windows 8 profile can access. When you first use it you have to set up a profile. If you are an existing user your profile is automatically downloaded to the new computer–apps, settings and passwords, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, BlackBerry, Gmail, etc. all your information, accessible in one single place”.

Swift did not give the person the password, but contacted Sainsbury’s, who informed him that they had returned the laptop to the manufacturer for diagnostics. If the manufacturer further sold the laptop, it would first be refurbished and the data wiped, they told him.

There was a different case with Swift, Police had warned him that he was vulnerable to identity theft, so he started changing his passwords.

While Swift’s case involved an individual laptop, similar risks await for organizations that return used laptops to computer firm trusting that the data will be wiped by them.

IT security researcher, Graham Cluley advised “to prevent data from getting into the wrong hands, enterprises should ensure all laptops have hard disk encryption and that a complete erasure of data, including multiple passes across the hard drive, is performed before the used laptop is turned over to a third party”.

Alertsec strengthens security

Alertsec has created a web based encryption service that radically simplifies deployment and management of PC encryption by using industry leading Check Point Full Disk Encryption (former Pointsec) software.

Organizations, especially corporate giants, have to have an information security policy in place that proves they have taken necessary steps and measures to safeguard the information they gathered. If these policies are not adhered to, the regulators may prosecute.

Alertsec Xpress is used by organizations that have recognized the need to protect their information. Customers range from single-user sole traders and consultants to multinational companies with a large number of offices around the globe. Over 4 million users worldwide use Alertsec Xpress’s Check Point Full Disk Encryption.

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