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Survey: 40% of hard drives bought on eBay hold personal, corporate data
Buyers found data on everything from corporate spreadsheets to e-mails and photos

A New York computer forensics firm found that 40% of the hard disk drives it recently purchased in bulk orders on eBay contained personal, private and sensitive information — everything from corporate financial data to the Web-surfing history and downloads of a man with a foot fetish.

Kessler International conducted the study over a six-month period, buying up disk drives ranging in size from 40GB to 300GB from the United States and Canada. The firm, which completed its research about two weeks ago, bought a total of 100 relatively modern drives, the vast majority of them Serial ATA.“With size of the sample, I guess we were surprised with the percentage of disks that we found data on,” said Michael Kessler, CEO of Kessler International. “We expected most of the drives to be wiped — to find one or two disks with data. But 40 drives out of 100 is a lot.”

Kessler believes the drives were likely from computers sold to third-party resellers that dissassembled them and sold off the parts.Kessler’s engineers had to use special forensics software to retrieve data from some of the hard drives, but other drives contained sensitive data in the clear, having never been overwritten or erased. The data included personal documents, financial information, e-mails, DNS server information and photographs.

“The average person who knows anything about computers could plug in these disks and just go surfing,” Kessler said. “I know they found a guy’s foot fetish on one disk. He’d been downloading loads and loads of stuff on feet. With what we got on that disk — his name, address and all of his contacts — it would have been extremely embarrassing if we were somebody who wanted to blackmail him.”

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