One of the many frustrations of becoming an identity theft victim is the never knowing how it happened. A new study might shine some light on the mystery.
Researchers purchased 300 used computer drives from eBay, other auction sites and flea markets and found 34% of them still contained confidential information, including hospital records and sensitive military information.
Among the discarded information they discovered:
- Network data and security logs from the German Embassy in Paris.
- Test launch routines for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (ground to missile defense system).
- Blueprints and personnel records—including Social Security numbers--from Lockheed Martin.
- Business plans of a well-known fashion company in the UK, including customer information and discount codes.
- Corporate design plans from a major auto manufacturer.
- Computers bought in the United Kingdom included patients’ medical records, X-rays and staff correspondence.
- In Australia, a disk from a nursing home contained patients’ personal information along with patients’ photos and those of their wounds.
- A disk from a US bank was still storing account numbers and detailed plans for a $50 billion currency exchange with Spain. Other information included details of transactions between the bank and organizations in Venezuela, Tunisia and Nigeria.
- Also on that disk was correspondence between Federal Reserve Board member and the unnamed banks indicated those deals were already being scrutinized by federal investigators and the European Central Bank.
The is the fifth year for the study jointly conducted by Longwood University in the United States, Edith Cowan University in Australia and University of Glamorgan in Wales. On an encouraging note, only 34% of the computers in this year’s study revealed personal, business and government secrets; in the first study roughly 50% of the used computers were still treasure troves of information.