Warning: Deleting data from a hard drivedoes not erase it

An organisation backed by Japan's largest electronics companies has issued a warning to PC users that data stored on the hard drive of a computer being scrapped or thrown away can be read by a malicious third party, even if the drive has been reformatted, and has called on PC makers to offer software and services to protect users.

"What users normally do as data deletion, is not exactly deleting data," said Atsuko Agata, a spokeswoman for the Japan Electronics and Information Technology Industries Association (JEITA). "It just temporarily puts a mark on data that says this data is unnecessary."

In order to erase data completely from a hard drive, special software is needed and PC makers should offer such software or a related service to their customers, JEITA said in a statement, adding that PC makers should provide information on how to erase data from a hard disk on their Web sites and in their product manuals.

This is the first time that JEITA has issued guidelines for how PC makers and users should handle the issue of deleting data from a hard drive when disposing of a PC.

JEITA is aware of many incidents involving sensitive data that has been leaked after the PC this data was stored on was either scrapped or given away, Agata said. In addition, the Japanese government is promoting a measure that would make recycling of consumer PCs mandatory by law, she said. A bill that makes recycling of corporate PCs mandatory has already been passed into Japanese law.

Next month, Agata added, JEITA will release detailed guidelines for how PC makers and PC users should handle the issue of deleting data from a hard disk when disposing of a PC.

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