Residual Data on Used Equipment

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Used hard drives are frequently a good source of images for testing forensic tools. That's because many individuals, companies and organizations neglect to properly sanitize their hard drives before they are sold on the secondary market.

You can find used hard drives on eBay, at swap meets, yard sales, and even on the street.


Newsworthy Used Hard Drive Stories

There have been several incidents in which individual have purchased a large number of hard drives and written about what they have found. This web page is an attempt to catalog all of those stories in chronological order.

  • 2003-01: Simson Garfinkel and Abhi Shelat at MIT publish a study in IEEE Security and Privacy Magazine which documents large amount of personal and business-sensitive information found on 250 drives purchased on the secondary market.
  • 2006-08-10: The University of Glamorgan in Wales purchased 317 used hard drives from the UK, Australia, Germany, and the US. 25% of the 200 drives purchased from the UK market had been completely wiped. 40% of the purchased drives didn't work. 40% came from businesses, of which 23% contained enough information to identify the company. 5% had business sensitive information. 25% came from individuals, of which many had pornography, and 2 had to be referred to the police for suspected child pornography.
  • 2006-08-14: [1]News.com reports on a BBC Real Story program which discussed the sale of bank account information being sold in Nigeria. The identities of British citizens, scavenged from used PC hard drives, are reportedly sold for £20 each. The PCs had apparently come from recycling points run by UK town councils.
  • 2006-08-15: Simson Garfinkel presents results of a study of 1000 hard drives (750 working) at the 2006 Workshop on Digital Forensics. Results of the study show that information can be correlated across hard drives using Garfinkel's Cross Drive Analysis approach.