If you want to sell your laptop, be careful: extremely private data can be recovered with little effort.
Thousands of private data, photos and videos. Kassensturz’s editor also found pornographic and erotic materials during his search. Note: Very sensitive and personal data can be found on most devices. Even the full tax return is on a purchased device, along with several bank account details, addresses and cell phone numbers.
Restore used laptops in seconds
Kassensturz bought 10 used laptops from online marketplaces and removed the data carriers. With commercially available software, hundreds of private data can be recovered within seconds on most hard disks.
With the help of the cell phone numbers and email addresses found, Kassensturz can locate all of the original owners. Did you rely on these findings from the data? Did you expect a stranger to be able to access most of the personal data that was supposedly deleted? When contacted, everyone is surprised and in some cases shocked that we have found their personal data.
Additional research shows that even laptops whose data has not been deleted are being sold. A very personal and extensive photo archive can be found without entering a password. When Kassensturz confronts the original owner, he is embarrassed: It was too difficult for him to format the hard drive.
The laptop was suddenly dumped on an online platform
Kassensturz was able to purchase a laptop on an online platform, even though the original owner had properly disposed of the device long ago. How can a discarded device be put up for sale again on an online platform? The exact path is still hazy.
This is what the disposal center says
The disposal center writes at Kassensturz’s request: “Although all companies are fenced, we cannot guarantee that thefts will not occur. To ensure that as a customer all data on the data bus is destroyed, you can hand over these devices to an appropriate company for destruction for a fee. Or delete all data professionally before disposal.
Kassensturz found an email password saved in a Word document on another laptop. “If this is the main email account, it’s really bad,” explains Guido Berger, because a lot of other accounts use that email address, for example to reset the password. This way, you can reset the password for many other accounts and gain control over those accounts as well.
However, the effort involved in obtaining this sensitive data is significant, says Guido Berger. “Organized cybercriminals who primarily want to make money efficiently, there are cheaper and easier ways to obtain personal data.”
Conclusion: If you want to sell your laptop and want to prevent data from being found, you should take the time to delete the data by following the instructions.
Guido Berger explains: How to delete data correctly
How you securely erase your hard drive depends on whether it is an older hard drive with physical platters or a newer SSD drive. You both need a different tool because these hard drives store data differently so secure erasing must also be done differently.
Another hurdle for laptops or computers with only one hard drive is that the operating system may be installed on the same hard drive as the data – meaning it cannot simply be deleted. You need to boot the laptop from the USB drive and then erase the hard drive from there. There are tools for that, too.
Do not forget: if you erase the hard drive, not only all your data will be gone, but also the operating system – the laptop cannot be used without it. Potential buyer should know this. Better to reinstall the operating system.
For an example, see the detailed instructions over here. If scraping seems difficult to you, it is best to consult a professional. »