Customer Data Protection & Destruction

Purpose for Article

When we find ourselves in the situation where a customer leaves us an item that contains their personal data, it is our responsibility and duty to find a way to secure that personal data or securely destroy that data.  This includes failing hard drivescustomer purchases, and e-recycling.  These are the established methods here at Computers Plus Repair to handle these situations.

Hard Disk Drives (Not SSDs)

Platters are the round disks in hard disk drives that spin at speeds typically from 5400 RPM to 7200 RPM. They are either metal or coated in metal so that they can store your data magnetically. Desktop hard drives — typically 3.5″ drives — have platters made of solid metal. To prevent them from being read by any but the most serious data thief, even the slightest bend in the platter would cause almost instantaneous destruction when the hard drive is powered on and tries to spend at such high speeds mentioned above. Compare it to when you get a very small “bump” in your car’s tire. At highway speeds, it can make your car feel like it’s going to fly apart! Significantly bending the platters removes all hope of recovering data from that drive.

The platters in laptop hard drives — typically 2.5″ drives — are made of metal-coated glass. It’s lighter so that less electricity is needed to keep those platters spinning at high speeds. Because they’re mostly glass, it is far easier to destroy laptop hard drive platters. In fact, throwing them against a hard surface just might be enough to effectively destroy the platters. Or try a hammer. In essence, if you hear pieces rattling around inside after such a run-in with physics, that drive has been destroyed successfully.

Failing/Failed Drives

These are drives that cannot be accessed — in part or in whole — through a computer interface for secure wiping.

For these drives, we crush them with our in-shop press or otherwise physically destroy the platters inside the drive, such as by drilling holes into the drive and through the platters.

Functional & Useful Drives

These are drives that are accessible through a computer interface, are in good health, and are of large enough capacity for reuse.

For these drives, we use a utility to securely erase the contents of the drive.  The Linux utility Disks has an option to tap into a drive’s ability to securely erase the disk more quickly and more thoroughly than OS-based measures.  The ATA Enhanced Secure Erase method accesses a function that is built into the hard drive itself. Because of the fact that the manufacturer must choose to include it, this option may not be available.  These are the steps we follow to utilize this method.

  1. Using the Disks utility, once the drive is attached and selected,
  2. Click the “hamburger” menu icon at the top of the window.
  3. Choose “Format Disk…”  
  4. For “Erase,” choose the “ATA Enhanced Secure Erase” option.  This method takes a lot less time than the zeroing option.  
  5. It doesn’t matter what partitioning scheme is chosen.  
  6. Click “Format…”  
  7. Allow this to complete.

Functional Yet Useless Drives

For those drives that are functioning and accessible but are too small or old for relevance, we will use one of the two methods above before depositing in the containers for e-waste.

The Question of Multiple Passes

The nature of hard disk drive technology is one based on magnetism.  Magnetic fields aren’t perfectly precise.  You can shape them and “aim” them, but they’ll let you down. Neighboring areas on hard drives can be affected by the same magnetic field that’s currently being used to write a 1 or a 0 to a bit.  This “residual” effect can lead to data recovery even after the original data has been changed — but it’s still far from easy. Success relies on the data surrounding that bit to still be intact, as well. A single pass of random data would more than likely thwart any common data pilferer.

If you’re trying to avoid three-letter government agencies, however, multiple passes may be necessary.  This would actually be more secure than crushing or drilling since those same agencies are becoming more and more adept at piecing back together your broken or bent platters.  

How many passes is best? Let me put it this way: almost all of those same three-letter agencies you may be worried about use only three passes. And they’re dealing with state secrets. However, according to NIST and other experts, a single pass of overwriting the data on a drive is enough.

Of course, there are more extreme measures of platter destruction such as degaussing, hard drive shredders, melting, etc.  However, for our regular customers, that’s certainly overkill.  If the ATA Enhanced Secure Erase is available, we will perform that method.  If that’s not available, wiping with all zeros or with random data over a single pass will be more than enough in our customers’ cases.

Crushing vs. Wiping

When there are a significant number of hard drives with data to be destroyed, the time in doing so needs to be considered. To crush a drive, you have to stand at the press the entire time and risk flying parts and pieces hitting you. (Even with the proper personal protective equipment in place, it’s best to avoid them!)  The most you can do effectively at any one time is two drives. With our manual press, that’s a lot of time and a lot of elbow grease!

With wiping, we can wipe as many drives at the same time as we have freed drive connectors attached to our computers around the shop.  We plug them in, start the wipe in the Disks utility, and let it go.  It can take us under a minute to get three or four disks wiping concurrently.  Then we go do whatever else, leaving the computer to do its work, and check back in on it at some point later.

Let’s say that one of our techs can wipe three drives per workstation.  Wiping using the ATA Enhanced Secure Erase option usually takes 2 ½ to 3 hours.  With two computers, that’s six drives wiped at the same time.  With three computers, that’s nine drives.  With four, that’s 12.  We have at least this many workstations available. And setting that up across four computers would take that tech maybe five minutes.  Crushing the drives in the press would take longer than five minutes to do only two drives. And there are no messy hard drive pieces to clean up afterward!

Solid State Drives (SSDs)

The obvious difference between hard drives and SSDs is that one moves and the other doesn’t — hence the name solid state drives.  SSDs use a type of non-volatile RAM that has only so many “writes” per chemical cell.  The chemical membrane in this cell will wear out — unlike the magnetism in a hard drive.

Because of the finite writes available on SSDs, manufacturers have implemented wear-leveling.  The computer the SSD is plugged into may be told it’s writing to such-and-such sector, but the SSD’s internal logic is constantly moving sectors across the NVRAM (non-volatile random access memory) as they are written.  This way, no one part of the SSD is worn out before another.  And this is the main difficulty to overcome in truly and securely erasing an SSD.

To complicate matters, there’s more space available to the SSD than is available to the external device.  This additional space is dedicated to assisting in wear-leveling, the accumulation of bad sectors, and other reasons.  So, even if a utility like DBAN is used to write zeros to all the available space of the drive, there’s still a lot of personal data left in the drive.

Therefore, you cannot use any external or OS-level mechanism to securely erase an SSD.  [Reference: Securely Erasing SSDs]

ATA Secure Erase

Just like with hard drives, SSDs can have a built-in, hardware level mechanism for securely erasing all data on the drive.  Refer to the following from Kanguru:

Secure Erase

When the Secure Erase command is issued by an SSD that properly supports it, the SSD’s built-in controller resets all its storage cells as empty (releasing stored electrons) including the protected storage service regions, restoring the SSD to the factory default configuration.

Enhanced Secure Erase

Enhanced Secure Erase is device-specific, and how it is actually carried out can vary from drive to drive. In some cases, the Enhanced Secure Erase will overwrite all sectors with a predefined pattern of ones and zeroes. In other cases, the drive has an internal encryption key which is simply destroyed and regenerated.

Access to this feature is usually found in the SSD manufacturer’s software.  It can also be found in utilities like Parted Magic.  MakeUseOf has a good article relating to this utility and how to actually use it: How to Securely Erase Your SSD Without Destroying It.

Physical Destruction

Computers Plus Repair currently has no solid opinion on what is effective — outside of shredding the memory chips inside the SSD to fine powder or melting them — for physically, securely destroying SSDs and other NVRAM.

We’re Hiring; $50 Giveaway; Windows 10 Upgrade; Water Damage Repair; Business IT Support & Other News

We’re Hiring!

Congratulations to Blake on his new job with MVC Vehicle Components. And congrats to Seth on his teaching position in Shanghai! We are happy for both of them, but they will be greatly missed! We’re now looking for an experienced Apple computer technician, and an experienced on-site technician with a wide range of troubleshooting and repair experience, both with excellent customer service skills. If you or someone you know fits the bill, please send a resume to [email protected]  

We’re giving away $50 cash

All you have to do is go like our Facebook page and you’ll be entered into our giveaway. Help us reach our goal of 1000 likes on our Facebook page. Once we reach it, we’ll randomly choose a winner who will get $50 cash! Congrats to Jenny H. who won our previous giveaway.  

DID YOU KNOW?

Microsoft is releasing Windows 10 on Wednesday 7/29

It’s a free upgrade for Windows 7 and 8 users if you upgrade before July 29 of 2016. Also, it is getting much better reviews than Windows 8. Check out our post for more info. If you have any questions, let us know. Plus, we can help with the upgrade or any issues that may arise.  

We can repair water damaged electronics

We have a fancy new water damage cleaning machine & process that successfully repairs water damaged electronics in most cases. Plus, we offer a 6 month warranty on the repair.  

We offer business computer repairs

We perform IT support for many local businesses. We do a broad range of repairs, installations, data backups & recovery, networking, and other on-site services. Learn more  

We buy & sell used laptops & devices

Get easy cash for your used devices. We buy & sell recent, used laptops, iPads, iPhones and Android tablets & smartphones. Learn more We also sell new computer parts & accessories.   Remember Computers Plus Repair for any laptop, Apple, or data recovery problems. We offer free estimates and diagnostics!   

Data Backups & Data Recovery

Data Recovery, Hard Drive Replacement, & Data Backups – Lexington, KY

Do you need to recover your data after a hard drive failure, replace a failing hard drive, or create regular backups of your data? Give us a call. We are glad to help.

We offer the following services in our Lexington repair shop:

  • Data recovery
  • Hard drive replacement
  • Backup solutions
  • External hard drive sales
  •  Restore Operating system
  • Computer repair – PC & Apple
  • Virus removal
  • Memory upgrades
  • and more

Call us or stop in today. (859) 523-5355

We perform data recovery in Lexington KY on a regular basis for customers who have failed hard drives or have been unable to access their files due to malware, viruses or data corruption. If your computer is having problems, give us a call or come by our store. We are glad to help you out.

We can also help you set up a regular backup plan to keep your important files safe in the event of hard drive failure or other mishaps. It’s always good to have backups of important information.

Some tips to help keep your laptop & data safe:


Be careful with the coffee. As we all know, liquids and electronics don’t mix very well. Spilling a simple glass of water on your laptop’s keyboard can damage the main circuitry of the computer. Though, a lot of water spills are not catastrophic if the user takes the appropriate steps. For instance, turning the computer off immediately, removing the power cord and battery if possible and letting it completely dry out (in rice or silica gel) for at least 3 days on average. It’s best to take the computer apart so it can dry in areas where air may normally have trouble reaching it. Also, if soda or a sweet drink spill on it, the computer will benefit from a professional cleaning as soon as possible, especially since soda contains corrosive acids. Turning the computer off and unplugging it still apply.

So try to keep food and beverages away from your laptop or computer. We’ve met many people who wish they had!

Keep an eye on the kiddos. Perhaps it’s safe to say small children and certain electronics don’t mix very well either. As cute as the little ones can be, they are sometimes rough on things. Many LCD screens, hard drives, data and hinges have fallen victim to accidents by children.  Although, we can fix or replace almost all internal components, the best repair is prevention.

If the kids are old enough to use the electronics, you can use some measures to help prevent accidents. For instance, try having a designated safe, low traffic area for laptop use. This will help prevent accidents.

Ensure good airflow so it doesn’t overheat. This is very important to a hard drive’s longevity. If a hard drive temperature often exceeds its upper limit, the drive’s life can be shortened and cause premature mechanical failure.

Computers and laptops have fans installed to prevent overheating and damage to the system. But sometimes people may not be conscientious of keeping the fan free from obstructions and dust to maintain enough airflow. If your hard drive has failed due to overheating or other causes, we can salvage important data in most cases and transfer it to a new, replacement hard drive.

We provide a free dust cleaning for most fans and cooling components with any other paid service (nicotine damaged computers are extra since they require more than a thorough dusting).

Be careful where you store it. Accidents happen, but sometimes they can be avoided by keeping them in a safe place. For instance, leaving a laptop on the floor or on a chair where it could easily be trampled over, kicked, sat on, or dropped should be avoided whenever possible.

Dropping a laptop or jarring it while the hard drive is running can cause damage to the internal parts of a hard drive – as well as other parts of the laptop, like the LCD screen. We have seen many a casualty in this fashion.

Remember that old age and long-term use is a common reason for hard drive failure as well. Even if you treat your computer perfectly it will still fail one day and you will likely want to have a backup plan set up for your important files.

Got files you’d hate to lose? Make backups of important data. You’ll save time in case of a mishap or hard drive failure, and it will help you to avoid a great deal of frustration!

Ask us. We can help. We offer data recovery, back up solutions, external hard drives, memory upgrades, virus removal, and more.

(859) 523-5355

Remove Cryptowall Trojan Malware

Remove Cryptowall & Restore Files

A new piece of pesky malware is making its rounds. Often identified as “Trojan.Cryptowall”, it is a Trojan that encrypts your computer files making them inaccessible. It then requires payment to have the files decrypted and to remove Cryptowall.

The threat typically gets installed by clicking links in spam emails, via exploit kits hosted through malicious ads or compromised sites, or by other malware.

This is a nasty piece of malware. As always, we recommend users to be very careful what links they click on and to avoid suspicious websites. In about 30% of cases we have been able to successfully restore access to some or all of users’ files after removing Cryptowall. The remaining option is a system restore to remove the treat. 

We do not recommend paying the ransom as directed by Cryptowall. There is no guarantee that the scammer will give you a decryption key to unlock your files, and the threat still remains. If your computer has been taken over by this frustrating piece of malware, give us a call or bring in your computer for us to take a look. We are glad to help.

Computers Plus Repair in Lexington, KY: (859) 523-5355

More Detailed Info on Cryptowall

Once Cryptowall is installed on your computer, it creates several registry entries to store the path of the encrypted files and the program runs each time the computer restarts. It encrypts files with certain extensions on the computer and creates separate files with directions on how to allegedly acquire the decryption code.

This threat attempts to convince you to pay money to get the passkey to free your files. It uses a number of different schemes to encourage you to pay the ransom. Of course after the scammer gets your money, he is under no obligation to release your files.

Another variation of Cryptowall is termed Trojan Cryptodefense. Cryptolocker is a similar piece of malware.

Means of Infection

In Cryptowall spam campaigns, the email will usually contain an attachment to an infected file along with a message that tries to coerce the user to download the file. The spam email might say the attachment is an purchase invoice, an undelivered package reminder, or a fax alert. If you open the attachment, your computer will promptly be infected with Trojan.Cryptowall or a variation of it.

It can also be transferred through exploit kits on compromised websites or malicious ads. The Rig exploit kit and the Nuclear exploit kit are two kits that have been used to compromise users’ computers with Cryptowall.

Other pieces of malware can install Cryptowall as well. For example, if a computer is already infected with Downloader.Upatre or Trojan.Zbot, then it’s at risk of getting Cryptowalled.

Functionality

Cryptowall was designed to prevent you from opening your files so that it could attempt to require payment in order to regain access. It does this by encrypting a large number of files on the computer with public/private key encryption using a very strong 617 digit or 2048-bit RSA key.

Once it has your files on lockdown, Cryptowall displays a ransom message via text document or HTML page. It may also warn that the decryption key will be deleted after a certain amount of time in order to pressure the you into paying quicker. The scammer may demand hundreds of dollars, and the amount may increase after a certain amount of days.

Remove Cryptowall. Remove Cryptolocker

The message will then give a link to a website where the scammer wishes to take payment. These sites are usually hosted on the anonymous Tor network, which scammers often use to hide their identity. The threat has asked the user to install a Tor network browser in order to access the site, but newer versions of the threat do not require the user to do this. The user may have to pay using an anonymous currency such as bitcoin to help shield the attacker’s identity.

Remove Cryptowall. Remove Cryptolocker

Even if you pay the ransom, there is of course no guarantee that the scammer will give you a decryption key to unlock the files.

Refurbished Laptops & an i7 iMac for sale – Lexington, KY

Refurbished Laptops & an i7 iMac for sale

Looking for a computer for work, school, or personal use? We have several affordable laptops, including an Intel i3 Toshiba Satellite with Windows 8 for $389, and a refurbished i7 iMac Apple computer in great condition for $1099! Come by or give us a call to check our inventory. (859) 523-5355 (check out the photos below)

affordable laptops, including an Intel i3 Toshiba Satellite with Windows 8 for $389, and a refurbished i7 iMac Apple computer in great condition for $1099

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

affordable laptops, including an Intel i3 Toshiba Satellite with Windows 8 for $389, and a refurbished i7 iMac Apple computer in great condition for $1099

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

affordable laptops, including an Intel i3 Toshiba Satellite with Windows 8 for $389, and a refurbished i7 iMac Apple computer in great condition for $1099

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Refurbished Windows laptops & i7 iMac for sale in Lexington KY

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

affordable laptops, including an Intel i3 Toshiba Satellite with Windows 8 for $389, and a refurbished i7 iMac Apple computer in great condition for $1099

 

Buy & Sell Used Laptops – Computers Plus Repair in Lexington, KY

Get money for your used laptops, iPads & iPhones.

Sell Your Laptop, Desktop PC, Tablet, or Mac!

Computers Plus Repair buys used laptops, Dektops, Tablets, and Apple Computers like iMacs and Macbooks both working and non-working (depending on age, condition, & manager discretion).

Quickly and easily convert your device into cash (or trade) in just a few simple steps.

  1. Bring your laptop/device and AC adapter into Computers Plus Repair.
  2. After a brief inspection, we can determine the value of your device and give you a quote for sale or trade.

Buy a Refurbished Laptop

Buy your next laptop at Computers Plus Repair and save money. We offer a wide range of reasonably priced laptops at budget prices. We are a Microsoft Registered Refurbisher, and we are experts at repairing Macs and Apple computers.

All previously owned items that we offer are put through a rigorous testing process to ensure you get a working computer at a great price.

Our refurbished laptops carry a 90-day or longer warranty, so you can buy with confidence and join the hundreds of satisfied customers that we have helped to save money.

Read more

Laptop DC Jack Repair and Replacement – Lexington KY

DC Jack Repair and Replacement

We Repair DC Jacks / DC Plugs / DC Connectors / DC Power Harnesses / DC Power Sockets and Electronic Key Fobs

Laptop DC Jack Repair in Lexington KYIf you have to wiggle your laptop cord or hold it at an angle to get a charge, your laptop likely needs DC jack repair. Also, the DC jack on your laptop may be damaged if the power cord no longer charges it, although this can also be due to a failed laptop charger cord – we carry many models in stock.

Oftentimes, the DC jack can be repaired or replaced at a reasonable cost. Our repairs run from $50 to $150 depending on the amount of work involved in the repair. We have parts for certain popular models in stock and can quickly acquire other model parts for speedy repair of your laptop. Sometimes we must partially disassemble the laptop before it can be determined if the faulty jack can be re-soldered or must be replaced. Read more

Upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for $15

Get Windows 8 Pro for $14.99

Windows 8 logoMicrosoft Windows 8 Upgrade Offer:

  1. Buy a qualified Windows 7 PC between June 2, 2012 and January 31, 2013
  2. Register for the offer
  3. Redeem your promo code to receive the $14.99 upgrade

If you buy a qualified Windows 7 PC between June 2, 2012 and January 31, 2013, you can purchase a download of Windows 8 Pro for 14.99. Read more

Our First TV Commercial – Computers Plus Repair – Lexington KY

Check Out Our Very First Commercial!

“Has your computer died? Running slow? Full of viruses? How much will it cost?

Drop your computer off at Computers Plus Repair and we’ll provide any service you need for the lowest price in town, or we’ll come to you (or we can login remotely). Computers Plus Repair is locally owned and operated so you know you’ll get the same expert service every time. We specialize in OS installs, failed hard drives, back ups, and LCD repairs on any Mac or PC (as well as virus removal, optimizations, upgrades and much more). Plus, we sell budget friendly refurbished computers (we buy used computers too). Computers Plus Repair in the Pimlico Shopping Center, where honest advice is always free.”

859-523-5355
[email protected]

3120 Pimlico Pkwy. Lexington, KY
Next to Subway and Great Clips
a BBB Accredited business

Let us know what you think.

Aaron Collins Wish for the Homeless and Those in Need

In Honor of Aaron Collins’ Last Wishes

Update 11/5/12: In honor of Aaron Collins, with the help of our great customers, Computers Plus Repair was able to donate $165 to Lighthouse Ministries to support local people in need, and $150 to fully fund a micro loan for Zewde Metaferia of Ethiopia to purchase an ox to help her cultivate her family’s land and transport her crops to market. “The increased income from agriculture will go towards giving my children a more nutritious diet, keeping them in school and paying for medicine. In the long term I hope to carry on developing my business to get more income,” she said.

ZEWDE METAFERIA - Zimbabwe World Vision Microloan

Zewde Metaferia of Washinaniget, Ethiopia

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