Tag Archives: failure

Staples Resells Storage Devices Without Wiping Customers’ Personal Information

imageCanada’s privacy watchdog, Jennifer Stoddart, is no slouch when it comes to aggressively enforcing her mandate – providing the strongest possible privacy protection for Canadians, in an era of constantly evolving risks to privacy.

Stoddart has successfully taken on Google, Facebook,  and a multitude of transgressors intent on violating Canada’s federal privacy law – the Personal Information and Electronic Documents Act.

As part of her annual report, released yesterday, Stoddard outlined what she described as a “long-standing problem” – Staples Business Depot’s failure to fully wipe customers’ personal data – including government-issued identification numbers, financial statements, employment histories, medical information, e-mail messages, personal correspondence and photographs – from computers, laptops, USB Hard Drives, and memory cards, prior to resale. A stunning violation of the Personal Information and Electronic Documents Act. 

But why be polite? Rather than a just a violation of the privacy act – what we’re really talking about is; a negligently stupid lack of consideration for the privacy of the people who pay the bills – the customer.

Stoddart’s common sense position: If you (Staples) can’t remove all customer data from a device, then don’t sell it.

In a rather pathetic response, Staples Business Depot tried to weasel out of the blowback from what is clearly an embarrassing and perhaps legally challenging (although, this remains to be seen) situation, by describing the data wipe process as ineffective. Theoretically technically true – but, disingenuous nevertheless.

Short of melting down a Hard Drive’s platter/s, there is always a risk (theoretically), that deleted/overwritten data can be recovered. But, an average user is not up against James Bond, the CIA,  the FBI, or a computer forensic specialist running an application such as OSForensics – which I have reviewed here.

Some practical advice:

If you are ever in a position where you find it necessary to return a storage device for a refund or replacement, do not trust that the merchant will apply proper security precautions. Instead, run a reliable utility designed to erase and overwrite data on the storage device.

To learn how to do this using the freeware application File Shredder 2 – read the companion piece to this article – Delete Data Permanently With Free Free File Shredder 2 – which I posted immediately following this article.

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Filed under Computer Forensic Tools, Freeware, Point of View, Privacy, Secure File Deletion, Software, System Security, Windows Tips and Tools

A Tech Discloses What’s Really Inside Your Mega Hard Drive

One of my favorite computer technicians, Dave Brooks, reveals what’s really inside that mega Hard Drive you were thinking of buying.

image Numerous articles have appeared here on Bill’s blog about how important data backup is. This article will not discuss the why’s; it will discuss an issue which I feel is a trend in the external enclosure industry, a very bad trend, and not always disclosed in a products description.

When shopping for an external hard drive for backup purposes, you need to be aware of the following issue.

The average consumer would think that when buying a 1 or 2TB external hard drive,  the enclosure contains a 1 or 2 TB hard drive, but that isn’t so on some Lacie and some other manufacturers’ enclosures.

They may actually contain 2 physical hard drives, half the size of the total capacity, set up in a striped RAID array. With the electronics inside the enclosure controlling the drives, your system will see a 2TB drive, but the enclosure actually contains 2 1TB drives.

The problem with these is, if one of the 2 drives fail, all your data is lost if the electronics board in the enclosure fails all of your data is lost. In a normal single disk enclosure it’s usually possible to remove the drive from the enclosure to get data off of it, if the enclosure electronics or power supply fails.

This striped array method is absolutely the worst way to store important data, as it doubles the possibility of hard drive failure and data loss. Any IT person worth his salt will never recommend this setup for storing critical data (unless there is a backup of the backup done on a regular basis).

I’ve had 2 customers with Lacie enclosures set up this way. One had the electronics board in the enclosure fail, and data recovery was not possible via any methods I had -even going so far as to use a Linux box and data recovery software designed to reassemble RAID disks into a single image. The only option was to send the drives to a data recovery specialist at the cost of hundreds to even thousands of dollars.

The second customer had one of the drives fail (multiple bad blocks), and believe it or not, this is actually the better failure scenario, as I was able to repair the drive to get it working in the enclosure.

The recovery of almost 1Tb of data was successful – he got lucky, and saved a bunch of money as I don’t charge anywhere near what professional data recovery companies do, but they have techniques and equipment I can only dream about 🙂

The place for this type of RAID setup is when higher performance is desired. A striped array of two 500GB drives (that gives 1TB of useable storage) is faster than a single 1TB drive. I use this setup in my gaming PC, but it must be backed up on a regular basis.

Just keep this info in mind when shopping for that next external backup drive!

Guest Writer: This is a guest post by Dave Brooks a professional computer technician from New Hampshire, USA. Dave has become a regular guest writer, who’s articles are always a huge hit.

Pay a visit to Dave’s site at Tech-N-Go, and checkout the Security Alerts.

If you enjoyed this article, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.


Filed under Backup Tools, Guest Writers, Technicians Advise, Windows Tips and Tools