A global review of information remaining on disks disposed of by organisations

Document Type

Conference Proceeding


Academic Conferences Limited


Computing, Health and Science


Computer and Information Science, Centre for Security Research




Originally published as: Jones, A. (2006). A Global Review of Information Remaining on Disks Disposed of by Organisations. In ECIW2006-Proceedings of the 5th European Conference on i-Warfare and Security: ECIW 2006 (p. 111). Academic Conferences Limited. Original article available here


All organisations, whether in the public or private sector use computers for the storage and processing of information relating to their business or services, their employees and their customers? A large proportion of private individuals now also make use of personal computers in their home and will often store personal information relating to both themselves and their families. The majority of organisations and individuals probably continue to be unaware of what is actually stored on the hard disk drives that are fitted into the computers, and what happens to it when the computers and hard disks are disposed of. In 2005, the University of Glamorgan in Wales and Edith Cowan University in Australia carried out a joint research project to determine whether computer disks that were offered for sale on the second hand market had had the information that they had contained prior to disposal effectively erased. The results of this research showed that in the overwhelming proportion of the disks that were examined, organisations and individuals had failed to remove the information and as a result, had exposed the organisation and individuals to a range of potential crime. It also revealed that organisations had failed to meet their statutory, regulatory and legal obligations. In this paper we describe a repeat of the research that was carried out in 2005 and also extended to cover additional countries. In this research, the methodology that was used in the previous review was repeated and the disks that were used for the experiment were supplied blind by a third party. The research that was undertaken involved an analysis of the disks in order to determine whether any information of significance remained on them and whether it could be easily recovered using commonly available tools and techniques.