A recent study concluded that USB flash drive users should be extra careful. The researchers say they easily recovered files from some keys that were thought to be empty. For the leaders of the study, one should avoid selling or throwing away old USB keys and other hard drives.
The USB key is one of the most widely used storage media in the world. On sales platforms between individuals and others, it is possible to find all kinds of used (or reconditioned) keys. According to a study published in the Social Science Research Network on July 14, 2020, we should be extra vigilant. Researchers from Abertay University (Scotland) explain having found many files that were believed to be erased on such keys.
The study leaders bought around 100 USB keys online. No less than 98 of these appeared to be empty, but the researchers used readily available software in order to recover sensitive data. Depending on the keys, it was about user passwords, photos, contracts, tax declarations, or even bank statements.
Vigilance is essential
More specifically, you should know that 32 of the USB keys did not contain any data. In other words, these have been successfully deleted. In contrast, the study leaders partially recovered data on 26 keys. Finally, they found all the data on no less than 42 keys or around 40% of the readers. The researchers explained that this was very dangerous. Indeed, users potentially give access to their data to strangers without knowing it. However, some data is very personal.
The researchers still relayed the good news. Indeed, no key that participated in the study contained a virus. This is proof that users are pretty well protected despite the failure to delete data in many cases. In addition, this phenomenon can also be encountered with SD cards and other hard drives.
The study leaders gave some advice for users who really want to sell their keys and hard drives. In order to erase the data efficiently, the Diskpart utility present in Windows can take care of the formatting. It is also possible to deep erase data with multiple passes and then use software such as CCleaner. For those who wish to get rid of their medium, destroying it completely can also be a good solution.