Online security FAQs: Protecting your data when upgrading hardware

26th May, 2016

Even the most reactionary Luddites among us will sooner or later have to upgrade an electronic device, whether it’s a desktop, laptop, or a mobile phone. And often you’ll be inclined to sell the old device on eBay, or perhaps donate it to a worthy cause.

It’s not just a way of recovering some residual value from your equipment, it’s also environmentally sound – gadgets no longer suited to business duties often still have value and lifespan to offer others.

But don’t forget to cleanse it of all data first!

Disclaimer: This information is intended to be general in nature. For information that is customised to your business circumstances, please seek specialist advice.

Windows disk format dialog box
Before selling any data storage device, be SURE it’s cleared off!

Windows and Macintosh computers offer a wipe option when formatting a drive. It often takes an hour or more, in stark contrast to the usual “quick format” which completes in seconds, so it’s not usually the default option. But it’s worth taking the extra time.

If you’re not up to the job of wiping and reformatting your computer’s hard drive, buy pizza and beer for a friend with basic IT skills and make an evening of it!

Do NOT just delete your Documents folder and leave the operating system intact, since your Documents are NOT really gone. Even if you’ve “emptied” the Trash/Recycle bin, they can be easily recovered, even without special skills or equipment.

In theory, a really motivated attacker could recover data even from some forms of ‘secure erase’ – but this is extremely expensive, requiring specialised equipment. Unless you’re hiding government secrets from suspense-movie spies, a basic hour-or-so wipe is adequately secure.

Mobile phones can present a thornier problem. Even a factory reset can leave a great deal of information available.  A full format is possible, however, and as with desktop hard drives, it takes a while but leaves your phone reasonably clear.

For added security you can enable encryption on your phone’s internal storage. This does not significantly slow down most modern devices, and it adds an extra level of safety – when you do a simple factory reset, the encryption key is deleted, which makes the existing data permanently unreadable.  Newer-model iPhones and many Android devices do this by default, but in all other cases it’s an available option in your Settings menu.

Fortunately, there are many, many how-tos online covering data deletion, so whatever situation you’re in, you can easily do a web search and find a video or a tutorial to help you through the necessary steps.

Don’t be lazy or negligent in this area – this is a fast-growing type of online crime. It’s easy, can be done entirely from home, and poses little or no risk to the criminal! After all, why break into buildings or dig through dumpsters when people are effectively offering their personal details on eBay for just a few dollars?


Keeping your business information safe and protected is vital.
That’s why MYOB uses industry best-practice security protocols
to keep your data safe, secure and private.
Read about MYOB’s Security Commitment here.