Australian Newsagency Blog

A blog on issues affecting Australia's newsagents, media and small business generally.

WARNING: If you sell or give away a computer you have used in your business…

Mark Fletcher
July 21st, 2014 · 12 Comments

Slastdot has a post about an old computer that had been used for running POS software in a retail business which was sold on eBay. Here’s what was found on that old computer: default passwords, a security flaw, and names, addresses, and social security numbers of employees of the terminal’s previous owner.

The safest way to get rid of a computer you no longer need is to take a hammer to the hard drive or solid state storage. Smash it to bits. If you do sell it or give it away, format the drive first.


Category: Newsagency management

12 responses so far ↓

  • 1 reg // Jul 21, 2014 at 7:38 AM

    Mark, you were correct with your first statement. Destroy the hard disk. There are off the shelf tools to simply “unformat” hard drives that are written over by careless users.

    The tools specifically developed by hackers/geeks, data forensic companies and law enforcement are more powerful, retrieving data from disks that have been formatted multiple times.


  • 2 John Kirkham // Jul 21, 2014 at 10:25 AM

    If you really must sell/pass on your computer with it’s original hard drive, it’s important to ‘zero write’ over every sector of the disc. I’d suggest taking a gander at this link :

    However, in my game, I always take out the hard drive for the client and hand it back to them for safe keeping, just in case they need to access previous data or just use it as a back up drive.

    More importantly, I’ve got to follow the Privacy Act in my job, I’m handling other people’s data! Since data ‘let out in the wild’, can be abused for any nefarious purpose, once you’ve lost ownership of the data on the drive.


  • 3 Mark Fletcher // Jul 21, 2014 at 12:02 PM

    I’d also note that taking to a computer or even just a hard drive with a hammer can be immensely satisfying.


  • 4 Brendan // Jul 21, 2014 at 12:17 PM

    Had many a moment like that with computers Mark. One day I’ll follow through.


  • 5 Brett // Jul 21, 2014 at 12:47 PM

    Welding a “U” bolt to the whole PC makes a satisfying boat anchor as well!


  • 6 Phil // Jul 21, 2014 at 1:39 PM

    Brett the old apple I-Macs had a built in handle for attaching a chain for use as a boat anchor. No welding necessary.


  • 7 June // Jul 21, 2014 at 1:56 PM

    What should we do if we sell our newsagencies and the computers are still needed to run the business?????
    Do we charge extra or is that part of the sale price – do we need to get an expert in to ensure that MYOB is deleted e.g.?
    so that the new incumbent doesn’t have access to any personal stuff.


  • 8 John Kirkham // Jul 21, 2014 at 3:03 PM

    June, what I point out to SMB clients is that: software licenses are ‘not’ transferable, and in the instance of a data recovery which may need to be done down the track by the new owner, beware that ‘all’ data on the drive is ‘potentially’ recoverable, which has implications with complying with the Privacy Act.

    Basically, back up any data bases from the old drive/PC, then the new owners can restore it to their system separately for each program.

    I’m dead against businesses re-using a previous owners set-up ‘as is’, I’ve had it happen a few times, only because new owners don’t want to spend money.

    If you’re worried about ‘continuity’ of data usage at the time of changeover, a good tech’ will analyse the network layout and minimise downtime by making it a seamless transition.


  • 9 June // Jul 21, 2014 at 3:11 PM

    Thanks for the info John. It is much appreciated.
    We are both old and so are our computers, but a potential sale could possibly be lost if the person buying the business thinks they have too many obstacles in their path e.g. lotteries fitout,
    new computers, upfront payments to distribution companies etc etc.


  • 10 Lance // Jul 22, 2014 at 8:39 AM

    Be aware that some photocopiers also have an installed hard drive to image all documents that are passed through it.
    These machines need the same considerations as computers as mentioned above.


  • 11 Andrew G // Jul 22, 2014 at 10:17 AM

    Make sure you delete all of the porn.


  • 12 Don't accidentally give away private data - betterRetailing // Sep 23, 2014 at 12:40 AM

    […] is an interesting series of comments that were posted on Australian Newsagency Blog after I published this […]


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Reload Image