Data Breach on a Budget: The $100 Experiment

Recent findings from the FBI’s most recent Internet Crime Report reveal an alarming trend: the cost of cyber-crime is escalating. What’s more concerning is that cyber criminals are now setting their sights on small to medium-sized businesses as larger corporations bolster their cyber defenses.

We’re all familiar with the infamous headlines about phishing scams and ransomware attacks, but there’s an insidious form of cyber crime that’s slipping under the radar, one that’s cheaper and often overlooked: gaining access to sensitive data through unsanitized old hard drives or solid-state drives.

The Threat Lurking in Old Hard Drives

The negligent disposal of hard drives can have catastrophic effects on businesses. When companies carelessly dispose of devices still housing confidential data, open the door to a host of potential problems.

The immediate threat is a data breach. In 2022, the average cost of a data breach in the United States was a staggering $9.44 million, a figure that could bring many small businesses to their knees. Besides the financial impact, organizations face substantial legal repercussions if customer data is compromised. And this is before they even consider the damaging blow to the business’s reputation.

You might be wondering, what are the odds of acquiring confidential information from discarded drives? Surprisingly, the chances are higher than you might think.

How Much Data Can $100 Buy You?

Secure Data Recovery decided to delve into this issue.

They purchased fourteen hard drives, described by the sellers as being available for parts or non-functional, for under $100. They wanted to see if the sellers had actually taken the time to sanitize these devices before selling them.

The findings were shocking.

Out of the fourteen drives, only one was properly sanitized. The rest contained recoverable data. In fact, all the data was completely recovered from seven of them, and sophisticated repair work was not required.

In total, 216,109 files, consisting of 187,630 images, 19,223 documents, 5,931 audio files, and 3,325 videos, as well as four mailbox databases were recovered. All of this was obtained at an average cost of $7.06 per device. The thought of such critical information as financial statements, medical records, and trade secrets being readily available to potential cyber criminals is a disturbing one.

Your Data’s Safety, Your Business’s Future

Data is undoubtedly one of the most significant assets of any organization. It’s crucial to protect it, not just while it’s actively in use but also when it’s reached the end of its life.

Unfortunately, many businesses perceive data destruction as an avoidable expense rather than a vital investment. But the financial and reputational fallout from a data breach can be devastating.

In the past decade, we’ve seen extraordinary advancements in RAID and hard drive recovery techniques. State-of-the-art tools and methods have made data recovery far more accessible, and worryingly, this also extends to cybercriminals.

It’s more critical than ever for businesses to evaluate their vulnerabilities and address them robustly. Without implementing proven data disposal procedures, you risk exposing your business to irreparable harm. Protect your data, protect your future.

Secure Data Erasure: A Smart Investment

Implementing strong data erasure practices is the best way for businesses to avoid data breaches. Depending on each company’s specific needs, different methods of erasing data can offer different levels of protection. If a company handles a lot of personal or private data, it’s especially important to choose the strongest erasure options.

While some might worry about the cost, remember this: spending on secure data erasure now is much cheaper than dealing with the aftermath of a big cyber attack or an incident of mishandling data. In the long run, it’s smarter to prevent problems with data security, rather than trying to fix them later.

Source: Yevgeniy Reznik, April 2023, Improper Hard Drive Disposal Could Be a Million-Dollar Mistake, Solutions Review