INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Your social security number, bank records, and tax returns could be at risk if you toss out your old computer without properly cleaning up your track.
January is National Clean Up Your Computer Month, and there are some simple things we should all do to keep our information safe. It’s time to clean up or clean out your hard drive.
“People are getting new computers, getting new electronics, so now it’s like just throw away the old stuff, right?” said Cornelius George works with Rook Security.
Wrong! George says too often, people think they’re clearing their electronics, but they’re not.
“Not to scare anyone, said George, but the worst could happen,” George said. “I remember at one point we pulled an entire database, an accounting database for a company.”
It’s sensitive information that in just a few clicks, could be made public. George recommends going through your files. Be sure to back up pictures and organize documents that you would like to keep. Then, delete old files or programs that are unnecessary.
“When you do that, you forget that old computer was your livelihood for a long time,” said George. “You have your bank records, birth certificates, you have your tax returns for the past couple of years. You have pictures of passports you have to send to someone for something, pictures of your licenses and all of those things are on there.”
Those old programs that you haven’t used in years could be an easy access for hackers to get personal information on your computer.
“If you leave that stuff on someone’s computer and they get access to it, now if they use it to break the law that’s one thing,” said George. “But because it’s their property, it’s their property now.”
According to the Insurance Information Institute, more social security numbers were exposed than credit card numbers in 2017.
“Everything you have on there, you want it to stay within your four walls, right? You want it to stay with you,” said George.
So, when you’re just putting a file into the trash, you’re putting yourself at risk for cyber-crime.
“Go in there and take out the hard drive completely, just take it out and damage it. Seriously destroy it. The other thing you can do is there’s a program called DBan,” said George.
It’s important to stay on top of your digital footprint. That way no one else gets the chance to take a walk in your shoes.
“Your computer is probably running a lot slower because you have all of these files on there that you don’t need. You want to make sure you’re using some sort of cloud service or backing up to a hard drive itself.”
The Internet Crime Complaint Center received more than 300,000 cyber-crime complaints in 2017.
“Cyber criminals are like bullies, they like low hanging fruit,” said George.