One in five second-hand PCs finding their way onto the resale market contain sensitive data left on their hard discs by the previous owner, an international study has revealed.
Research by BT, the University of Glamorgan in Wales and Edith Cowan University in Australia, has found that although 41% of the hard discs studied were unreadable, 20% contained sufficient information to identify individuals.
The research, based on the acquisition of 300 PCs from auctions, computer fairs and online purchases, also found that 5% of the machines held commercial information on organisations, and 5% held "illicit data".
Some of the information contained on the computers included payroll information, mobile telephone numbers, copies of invoices, employee names and photos, IP addresses, network information, illicit audio and video files, and financial details, including bank and credit card accounts.
This is the second year running that the research has been conducted. Although the results showed that there had been an improvement in the number of PC owners who erased data properly, the researchers said a large number of the hard discs examined contained significant volumes of sensitive information.
Despite widening security awareness, more regulations and significant publicity, some organisations have not modified their procedures to ensure that information is removed effectively before computers are disposed of, said the researchers.
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