(PRWEB) March 29, 2005
Most people do not realize how easy it is for criminals to obtain our personal data without having to go into or break into our homes. In public places, criminals can use "shoulder surfing" Â watching you from a nearby location as you punch in your card number Â or listen in on your conversation if you give your credit-card number over the telephone to a rental car company.
Dumpster diving, going through garbage cans or a communal dumpster - to obtain copies of checks, credit card or bank statements, or other records that typically bear your name, address, and even your telephone number, is big business. These types of records make it easier for criminals to get control over your accounts and assume your identity. Pre-approved credit cards you receive in the mail, but casually discard without shredding, can give criminals an opportunity to activate the cards for their use without your knowledge.
In recent years, the Internet has become an appealing place for criminals to obtain identifying data, such as credit card and banking information. In the newborn rush to explore the exciting features of the Internet, many people respond to unsolicited E-mail that promise free goodies but require personal information, without realizing that in many cases, the requester's only motive is to get to discover your identity. In many cases, criminals have used computer technology to obtain large amounts of personal data, and literally hundreds of millions in cash.
With enough information about an individual, a criminal can take over that individual's identity to produce a steady revenue stream: for example, applications for loans and credit cards, withdrawals from bank accounts, use of telephone calling cards, or getting other goods and services. Most hard core criminals are organized, this is a business for them, and take steps to ensure that bills for the falsely obtained credit cards, or bank statements showing the unauthorized withdrawals, are sent to an address other than the victim's. The victim may not become aware of what is happing until the criminal has inflicted substantial damage to the victim's assets, credit, and reputation. Companies are getting bit as well.
The easiest way for criminals to get your information is from you. Many people have computers and most people upgrade there PC's or hard drives every two or three years. With the advent of the internet and ecommerce, online retail sales exceed $70 Billion dollars in 2004 and are rising every year. "All those credit card numbers and bank account numbers are stored on peoples hard drives." said Rick Dignard, a data recovery specialist with Data InSight (http://www.DataInSight.ca) - a data recovery and destruction firm. "I see PC's at the curb on garbage day every week. You can find used PC's at garage sales and flea markets. People think they are safe by deleting their files from the hard drives. Some people are more technically savvy and will format their hard drives to erase their information. But they're not really erasing anything." Dignard said. "People sell their PCs and are giving their personal information away with it." He added. "Almost every hard drive we ever tested revealed someone's personal information. At Data InSight, we recover deleted files from viruses, formatted and damaged hard drives in the course of a normal business day. But you don't have to be a computer scientist to be able to do it. Just google 'Data Recovery' and you'll find many downloadable shareware programs that can recover deleted files for you. It's easy as pie".
If deleting your word or text documents with all your passwords, pin numbers, account numbers, birthdays, and even your outlook folders doesn't work, how can you be safe from identity theft? "We created DR. WIPER to solve that problem." Dignard said. "Dr. Wiper changes deleted data so that even if it's recovered, it's useless to criminals. It's important to note that Dr. Wiper overwrites the data many times. Once the data is changed, Credit Card Number 1234 becomes 0000." Once you overwrite a file's data, you can not access it anymore. But that doesn't mean the data is not recoverable. That's why multiple overwrites are so important. There are two ways that overwritten data on a hard drive can still be read.
When a read/write head writes a bit (information) to a disk, it applies sufficient signal strength to set the bit, but not so much that adjoining areas are affected. That's what makes a modern hard drive capable of storing so much data. But because the signal isn't strong enough to saturate the media, the signal strength is affected by the data previously stored in that location. When a 1 bit is overwritten with a 0, the signal strength is weaker than it would be if the last value was 0. Very specialized, and expensive in the extreme, hardware does exist that can detect the exact signal strength that can obtain a ghost of the previous data. This process can be repeated up to seven times, so to guarantee the elimination of ghost images, data must be overwritten more than seven times, each time with random data. But at seven overwrites we're talking about national security issues, and it's easier to disintegrate the drive.
The second data recovery technique takes advantage of the read-write head not being positioned in exactly the same spot for all write operations. This allows experts to detect the previous setting around the edges of the track-called shadow data. Repeatedly overwriting data also will overwrite these border areas.
Knowing that your data can be recovered is comforting. Unless you wanted it gone for good. The U.S. Department of Defense's standard for sanitizing hard drives, is detailed in the National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual, also known as DOD 5220.22-M. The manual calls for overwriting data 3 times - with a single 8-bit character, then with the character's complement (0s for 1s and 1s for 0s), and finally with random bits. This method is not approved for sanitizing media that contains top secret information, however. Such disks must either be degaussed (demagnetized) or physically destroyed.
To thwart personal identity theft and fraud, Dr. Wiper does the job quickly, is easy to use, and could ultimately save you thousands of dollars, and years of grief.
For additional information, visit http://www.DataInSight.ca