A cyber security research company discovered approximately 75,000 deleted data files after buying only 100 USB drives on an internet auction site.
Some of the USB drives contained deleted data files including passwords and images with embedded location data. Other deleted data that was found included contracts and bank statements. These files could be exploited by a hacker to gain enough information to cause real damage, whether that be by logging into accounts or gaining personal details to commit fraud by acting as the individual.
Cyber security researchers stated that it has been “worryingly easy” to retrieve the data mentioned above. The researchers used public tools that are widely available by anyone who knew where to look. A frightening concept that a hacker or fraudster would certainly have had an easy time to retrieve these files.
Out of the 100 USB’s, only 32 of the drives had been wiped properly. Partial files were retrieved from 26 devices and all files were extracted from the remaining 42 drives.
Our recommendation is to not re-sell low value USB drives such as these and to re-use them instead to avoid the chance of this happening to you. If you think you will never use the drive again and just keep it lying around, make sure the data is properly deleted. We advise never throwing away drives to be positively safe.
Simply deleting everything from your USB whilst it is open in your file manager will not permanently delete data. As mentioned above publicly available tools can be used to retrieve deleted files.
Luckily, just as freely available software can be used to permanently wipe USB drives you can do this yourself by formatting the drive using different techniques on your PC or Mac.