Most consumers, however, don’t need that depth of data erasure, nor do they have the time or resources to complete it. Something does need to be done though, because personal computers contain the owner’s name, and often bank account, credit card info, and even social security and tax information. Before you throw out, give away, or auction off your computer or cell phone, make sure you erase all personal data and reset the unit back to the factory default.
Larry Daniel, from Guardian Digital Forensics says “You’re literally giving your personal information out to the criminal world.”
Doing a factory reset yourself is easy on most items. On the iPhone; go to “settings” click on “general” then press “reset” and select “erase all content and settings.”
Consumer Reports’ computer expert Dean Gallea says erasing info on Android phones is a little more complicated. Usually you go to ‘settings,’ and choose ‘privacy.’ Then you have to consult the manual online for the next steps.
To erase a personal computer, you need to download software. A good choice is from dban.org.
“You download the software and put it onto a CD. Then you put the CD into the computer’s disc drive and follow the instructions to erase the hard drive’s contents,” said Gallea.
Apple computers come with an original operating-system DVD with software to erase your files. Put it into the computer’s disc drive, reboot it, holding down the ‘C’ key during startup. Once the computer has booted up, choose “utilities,” then “disc utility,” select “hard drive,” then hit “erase.”
If you think you don’t have enough time to wipe your device, consider this:
Criminals live off of personal data. A study done in Brittan found that more than half of secondhand mobile phones examined still had sensitive personal data on them, including credit and debit card PINs, Facebook and Twitter usernames and passwords, bank account details, friends’ phone numbers and personal information. In a related poll of British adults who had sold mobile phone, 81% believed they had completely cleaned their phones of personal data.
After you’ve erased your computer and cell phones, Consumer Reports says double check everything is gone.