Second-hand USB Flash Drives Are Gold Mines For Identity Thieves And Blackmailers – How To Delete Files From Flash Drive Permanently
Your old USB drive can be used against you if you don’t know how to completely erase USB flash drive before disposing or selling it. This is because deleting files from your USB thumb drive or/and formatting it doesn’t really delete the files. They can be easily recovered.
A recent study by the University of Hertfordshire showed that most second-hand USB flash drives had data from the previous owners on them. The researchers purchased 200 flash drives from eBay, second-hand shops and auctions. 100 of the USB flash drives were from the UK, while the other 100 USB were from the US.
Using free recovery software, the researchers were able to recover data on 135 flash drives even though 24 flash drives out of the 135 were formatted. 20 flash drives were neither erased nor formatted, anyone with a computer could access the data on the thumb drives. 34 thumb drives were completely erased with secure data erasure software making it impossible to recover the data previously saved on them. Only one flash drive was encrypted, also making it impossible to access the data previously stored on it.
However, 44 flash drives had sensitive information of the previous owners on them. One of the USB flash drives had nude pictures of a middle-aged man with his contact address. One had images of guns, money, and a search warrant showing the name and address of the person. Another thumb drive contained a document showing the dealings of a stock exchange trader, passport, and address in France and the UK within the last 6 years.
We don’t have to list all the information found on the flash drives. One thing to take out of this is that these second-hand flash drives had pictures, name and home address as well as some sensitive documents of the previous owners on them. With that, identify thieves and blackmailers can use the data on the second-hand USB flash drives against the previous owners.
How To Securely Erase USB Flash Drive
You’re probably asking yourself ”how do I erase USB flash drive if formatting doesn’t permanently delete the files on it?” Well, these few tips will teach you how to delete files from flash drive permanently.
Use A Secure Data Erasure Software
Erasure software tools have proven to be the best non-destructive method to completely erase data on a USB flash drive. There are several of them available, some are even free, at least for personal home use. You will have to pay a one-time fee or monthly subscriptions for professional use.
Here are some we recommend:
- CCleaner, and Disk Wipe for Windows.
- Stellar Wipe Mac, and Mac Washing Machine Secure X9 for Mac OS.
- AweEraser, and WipeDrive available for both Windows and Mac OS.
- KillDisk for Windows, Mac OS, and Linux.
Always Use Encryption Software
Encryption is a safety precaution you can always use even before disposing of your USB flash drive. You can make it a general rule to always encrypt all your data on all your devices. This will always protect your sensitive information even when you lose your storage devices by accident or to thieves. You can also get free encryption software for personal use.
Here are some we recommend:
- Microsoft BitLocker, and USB Safeguard for Windows.
- AxCrypt, and LaCie Private-Public for Windows and Mac OS.
- VeraCrypt, available for Windows, Mac OS, and Linux.
Don’t Store Sensitive Information On Your USB Flash Drive
Be cautious about the type of data you store on your flash drive. Don’t store personal details about you, your friends and family, your business and legal dealings on your thumb drive. Following this standard will give you peace of mind even when you lose your USB flash drive because you know that no one will find any incriminating or sensitive information on it. You will also reduce the risk of falling victim to identify theft and blackmail.
The safest way to delete files from flash drive permanently is by destroying the flash drive. So, get a hammer and break your flash drive into tiny pieces, USB flash drives are cheap anyway.