Staples Addresses Security Concerns In Used Computer Sales

Many machines still contained old customer data

Just because you delete a file from your computer hard drive, it doesn't mean the data is gone. Special software can bring the deleted files back to life.

That's why Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen voiced concern when he learned office supply retailer Staples was selling used and refurbished computers whose hard drives had not been completely initialized. But after his office intervened, Jepson now says his concerns have been addressed.

According to Jepsen, Staples has changed the process it uses to clear the hard drives of personal information of previous owners at stores in Connecticut.

Jepsen approached the Massachusetts-based company in June to present his concerns. Based on the company's subsequent actions, he says he has now closed his investigation.

Issue first arose in Canada

Jepsen wrote to the company after reading a report that more than one-third of the used and refurbished computers, memory cards and USB flash drives sold by Staples Canada still held private customer information.

“I am pleased by the quick response by Staples to address the issue and in time for the holiday shopping season,” Jepsen said. “I am assured the company’s new procedures will clear the hard drive of refurbished computers before they are offered for re-sale.”

Staples told the Attorney General that its stores in Connecticut and across the United States only resell HP computers returned to the store within 14 days of purchase. They do not sell other used computers or used storage devices. No issues similar to those in Canada had been reported to Staples in the United States.

In response to the Connecticut probe, Staples said it adopted a new, enhanced procedure for clearing used computers. The process seeks to prevent even specialized software from accessing information of any previous user.

Once the process is completed, a store manager inspects the computer, verifies its status and signs a sticker placed on the box, which states the product was used previously and has been reset to original factory settings.

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