Coming out of the
holidays, some of you might have new computers, mobile devices, or other
gadgets. From a security perspective, this means two things: Securing your new
device and securely disposing of your old device.
Securely erasing and
disposing of your computer, phone, or tablet
We'll start with
computers, which are a bit more conventional to backup and securely wipe.
- First, always make sure to
back up any data you don't want to lose. Once you securely wipe your hard
drive, there's no going back.
- OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox, or an external hard drive are
all viable solutions here.
- Using more than one of these
is even better!
- Once your files are backed up
(and you've triple-checked to make sure), it's time to securely wipe your hard drive.
- Download and boot
into formatting software like Darik's Boot and Nuke or one of many others
- Choose the level of security
for the wipe, ideally something DoD-level or stricter.
- Wait for the operation to
complete. Very secure formatting will wipe the drive, overwrite it with
random data, then wipe it again, continuing this process until complete.
This may take some time.
- If you're unable to wipe your
hard drive, removing or destroying it is a perfectly fine alternative.
- This one's more
for those of you who are comfortable tinkering, so we'll leave the
particulars of researching your particular computer's hard drive location
- If you received a new set of
power tools as a gift, what better use for that new drill press than to
run a few holes through some computer hardware? Don’t forget your safety
- Or you can always just
remove the hard drive and stick it in that box of miscellany in the
corner of your basement. Chances are you'll never use it, but you'll at
least know that your data is safe.
Phones and other
devices have fewer options but are simpler overall.
- Prior to using the factory
reset option, make sure to enable full device encryption; this will ensure
that, even if someone is able to recover your data, they won't be able to
- Android: Check
with your manufacturer's instructions
- iPhone: Go into your
Settings and lock your device with a password or PIN. That's it!
- Reset your device to factory
- Android varies
but is typically under Settings > Backup and Restore
- iOS: Just go to Settings
> General > Reset.
Once you've securely
erased the data from your device, you have a number of options for disposal.
Many computer hardware or office supply outlets will accept devices for
disposal for free, but a friendlier option can be to donate your old devices to
an organization like Goodwill or Habitat for Humanity. Some of them will even
take non-working devices just for the parts, to refurbish, or to simply turn
around for whatever value they can, so consider donating them to charity if
this is an option for you.
Tips for making your
new device secure
This part's a bit
more straightforward; we just have some general tips for making sure that your
devices are as secure as possible.
- Windows Defender is a
built-in antivirus system for Windows machines. It's lightweight and
powerful, so you don't necessarily need to purchase separate antivirus
software if you're running Windows.
- Contrary to popular belief,
Macs are not immune to viruses. Luckily, Avast offers a free antivirus
we recommend you use.
- Consider turning on disk
encryption--but do note that it's VERY important that you don't forget
your password, or you will no longer be able to access your files
- Make sure to enable automatic
updates--and don't put them off when the update prompt appears!