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Cyber News Now: Clearing your devices safely

February 7th, 6:35 AM EST
Updated:

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WFXG) - Are you done with an old device? It's a good idea to recycle or sell it next. However, do you know how to clear it safely? The process is important for protecting your data from bad actors.

“it’s up to you. At the end of the day, you’re the one that has the final responsibility – your own personal due diligence.” said Jon Dollan, SRNL Cyber Director.

Before you turn in that cell phone, computer or gaming system, have you done more than just hit delete? If not, Dollan says you may want to wait before you proceed with recycling or resale.

“We wouldn’t throw away a lot of personal data in our trash - back in the day when we had a lot of it coming in the mail. No different for this.” said Dollan.

The National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) calls the process clearing.  It’s a level of media sanitation that fully wipes your devices. When these actions happen, data can no longer be retrieved. 


When it comes to computers, your first option is to take out the hard drive. If you are unable, Dollan says there are other options.

“Do a factory reset. It erases a lot of the data. But, it would still be worthwhile to go ahead and download overwrite software to overwrite multiple times on the hard drive. You know, that pretty much most of the time is going to erase most of the data.” said Dollan.

For your cell phone, he also recommends a factory reset. However, Dollan says you may want to take a step further.

“Take your SD card out. Keep it. There’s no reason to have your SD card go.” said Dollan.

Plus, don’t forget about your gaming systems.

“They retain a lot of data. A lot of times you're having to pay a lot of gaming outside of that. That’s going to be retained inside that device. That’s a little bit harder, where you’re going to have to go in and swipe or remove the hard drive and dispose of it.”

Dollan urges consumers to take the proper steps. He says that's because you may never know who is looking for an opportunity to capitalize on your personal information.

“There's going to be criminals, nation-states, intelligence services or just somebody who’s having fun and bought a used laptop at a store to see what they can do with it.”

Another step to consider…getting another device to keep your data on…like an external hard drive. This helps ensure valuable data is saved.

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