Discarded computer hard drives prove a trove of personal info

security       2003-01-15 
So, you think you cleaned all your personal files from that old computer you got rid of?
Two MIT graduate students suggest you think again.
Over two years, Simson Garfinkel and Abhi Shelat bought 158 used hard drives at secondhand computer stores and on eBay. Of the 129 drives that functioned, 69 still had recoverable files on them and 49 contained "significant personal information" -- medical correspondence, love letters, pornography and 5,000 credit card numbers. One even had a year's worth of transactions with account numbers from a cash machine in Illinois.