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Discarded digital devices can retain sensitive data

Before recycling or selling your aging laptop or cellphone, you might want to consider smashing it to bits instead.

Meanwhile, it's not always easy to wipe older devices clean, and any data left behind could have tangible value in a cyberunderground that revolves around online exchanges in which stolen data gets quickly converted to cash, says Mary Ann Miller, financial fraud expert at Nice Actimize, a supplier of banking security systems. "Security should be a key consideration from the moment you acquire a device - and when you dispose (of) it," she says. Millions of Windows XP laptops, desktops and netbooks are expected to be scrapped or sold as Microsoft makes a big push later this year to roll out its Windows 8 operating system. An XP hard drive can be difficult to extract data from and

Miller says device makers need to supply more guidance to consumers on how to responsibly dispose of old devices. "The potential exposure, when you count all of the computers and mobile devices out there, is in the billions," Miller says. "Companies and consumers need to work together to come up with a remedy."

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