Avoid Identity Theft, Shred CDs and DVDs Too
Identity theft is a hot topic now that thieves are even searching junkyards to recover hard disk drives from old PCs or other data carriers that have been dumped there. There’s a lot of invaluable information to be found on those, giving insight not just into your passwords but also into other personal information that you wouldn’t want to share with others. Since you can never be 100% certain that erased data is really erased beyond recovery, the best way to make sure your data remains private is to shred the data carriers just like you shred a piece of paper.
Most people are well aware of the risk of throwing away old documents that contain personal information. That’s why most companies, as well as private individuals, have invested in paper shredders that make sure personal documents can’t be read by people that find them on a garbage dump, paper recycling plant, or simply in your garbage container.
But what many non-technical people don’t realize is that, when you erase data on a data carrier, it’s not really erased. The computer merely writes a piece of information onto the carrier to indicate that the data to be erased should not be accessed anymore. It’s virtually erased, but in many cases it’s still there to be accessed by anyone who can bypass the access restriction written by the computer – and that’s not hard to do: There are a lot of freely downloadable programs that do this. Even if you don’t store your bank account data and passwords on those carriers, there’s lots of information in those thousands of files on a CD, giving a cyber criminal invaluable information to use as a basis for some “social engineering”. They can then try to use some of that info to impersonate you in a phone call and get to know even more about you – in the end leading to identity theft and access to your accounts if you’re unlucky.
The good news is that nowadays many paper shredders can also shred CDs, DVDs, and credit cards (if you tried it, you know that they're not easy to break with your bare hands). And out of the little fragments that remain, even the best-equipped cyber criminal probably won’t be able to retrieve any information anymore. So, when you invest in a paper shredder, invest in a model that also shreds your data carriers. And if you live in an area with a separate garbage collection for recycling purposes, think of the environment and make sure that the shredder you buy has a separate waste bin for the shredded paper and for the data carriers. I’ve found some models of this type from Swordfish and Fellowes, but there are certainly others around.
Here’s an ad by one of the manufacturers:
- New paper shredders also shred CDs, DVDs, and credit cards
- Avoid identity theft
- Make sure nobody recovers deleted information from your data carriers
- Some models have separate bins for paper and plastic, allowing for recycling
- Range from affordable home models up to heavy duty office shredders.
A data carrier that's at least as risky as CDs or DVDs is the well-established USB flash drive or memory stick. Probably millions of those get lost each year, with gigabytes of confidential information on them. Protect you data and consider investment in one of the new secure USB flash drives.
When you throw away an old PC or send it in for recycling, always open up the PC and take the hard disk out, because this disk contains information from years of use, allowing cyber criminals to use your information for all kinds of scams, including identity theft. You can’t shred that one, so you’ll have to physically destroy the disk, using whatever you have at hand. You’ll find sufficient how-to information on the Internet.
Where to buy
There are many models available from many stores – click here to search for models with separate paper and plastic bins.
There’s one for every budget and for every requirement, from occasional home use to heavy-duty office use.
Approx. price: $30–$3000 (May 09).
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