Out with the old and in with the new. Tech devices have become a common gift at the holidays. But what do you do with your old device?

You could sell it online, trade it in, toss it in the trash. I know, throwing it away is not eco-friendly. I am not telling you to throw it away, I am merely listing what most people do with their unwanted devices.

Now, where was I? If you do any of the above, you could be jeopardizing your privacy and your sensitive information. For a moment, stop and think about what is on your tablet, your smartphone, or your laptop? If you are like most people, you have information on them that you wouldn’t want in the hands of an identity thief.

So what can you do to protect your information?

You may have heard of these methods.

  1. Smash it.
  2. Break it.
  3. Reformat it.
  4. Shoot it.
  5. Drown it.

Unfortunately, none of these will remove your personal information from an unwanted device. It is the concept of removing the information that is flawed. Nothing can truly be removed from a technical device. Hitting the delete key may remove it so you can no longer access it but a fingerprint of it remains on the memory.

Magnets

Hollywood will have you believe that by placing magnets around your door will erase the information when the device passes through. Not exactly. Yes, if done correctly and with a powerful enough magnet, data could be removed from a device. This process is known as degaussing. Degaussing only works on magnetic media as it rearranges the polarity of particles on the device. Another issues with degaussing, different types of magnetic media require different types or strength of degaussers. Degaussers are expensive to buy, own, and maintain. They truly are not practical outside of commercial use.

Overwriting

An alternative is overwriting. Imagine a word written on a piece of paper in ink. In order to make the word unreadable you would need to scribble and write over the word until it was no longer visible. This is overwriting. Since the information cannot be removed, it can be overwritten to make it unreadable. Overwriting is an effective process for both commercial and personal use. When contacting a data destruction company verify that you will receive a certificate of data destruction. Companies that offer the certificate should have overwritten the data and then attempted to recover data from the device, verifying it is no longer recoverable.