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About two-thirds of USB memory sticks bought secondhand in the US and UK have recoverable and sometimes sensitive data, and in one-fifth of the devices studied, the past owner could be identified.
These results come this week from a study conducted by the University of Hertfordshire in the UK and commissioned by Comparitech, a consumer product comparison website.
Researchers - USB - Drives - US - UK
The researchers purchased 200 USB drives, 100 in the US and 100 in the UK between January and May 2018, from eBay, secondhand shops and conventional auctions. In the US, at least, most sellers demonstrated awareness of the need to erase data – only a single drive showed no sign of an erasure attempt. In the UK, 19 showed no sign of attempted cleansing.
Troublingly, the material recovered was often fairly sensitive. There were nude images of a middle-aged man, along with contact details. There were legal documents like a search warrant and risk assessments. There were financial papers dating back years, along with personal data. There were also tax forms, wage slips and the like.
Data - Device - Owners - US - UK
From the data found, 20 former device owners in the US and 22 in the UK could be identified. The researchers, however, did not make an effort to contact those individuals to alert them to their poor data hygiene.
Sixty-four people in the US and 47 in the UK tried to delete their data, but didn't actually manage it. Eight USB sticks in the US and 16 in the UK had been reformatted, but the data could be recovered "with minimal effort."
Percentage - People - Data
About the same percentage of people managed to wipe their data...
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