• Linkedin
  • Reddit


According to a new study by the University of Hertfordshire and commissioned by Comparitech, two-thirds of second-hand thumb drives contain data from the past owners. Now, let’s go to see the detailed study and know how to permanently erase data from USB drives.

A New Study on USB Drives by the University of Hertfordshire

Back in 2011, Sophos picked up a range of USB keys from a lost property auction to experimentalize. It turned out they were scared since 66% of them contained malware and none of them were encrypted. Now, more things are changing and USB drive-related things are also raising.

A new study found that second-hand thumb drives contain data. This study was done by the University of Hertfordshire and commissioned by a consumer product comparison website called Comparitech.

The researchers purchased 200 USB memory sticks, 100 in the United States and 100 in the United Kingdom, which were picked up on eBay, in second-hand shops, and through traditional auctions. And the latest research attempted to find out how many drives still had data, what was included in that data and whether attempts had been made to delete the data.

Second-Hand USB Drives Still Contain Previous Owners’ Data

Researchers found that two-thirds of these USB drives contained previous users’ data. In the drives, they discovered a range of intimate, sensitive and private files including business documents, ID scans, nude photos, wage slips, job applications, private memos, receipts, tax statements, and medical documents.

Besides, researchers made an analysis by using publicly available software and let’s see it.

100 USB Drives from the US:

  • 6 drives weren’t accessible and couldn’t be read with an available tool
  • 18 drives were wiped by a erase tool and no data could be recovered
  • 8 drives were formatted but they can be recovered easily with data recovery software
  • 64 drives were deleted but still could be restored
  • only one USB drive didn’t attempt to remove the data

100 USB Drives from the UK:

  • one wasn’t accessible and could be read
  • one was encrypted, not recovered
  • 16 drives were wiped and the data couldn’t be recovered
  • 16 drives were formatted and data still can be retrieved
  • 47 drives had data deleted but data can be recovered easily
  • 19 USB drive didn’t attempt to remove the data

second-hand thumb drives contain data

According to the study, you can find the biggest difference between the two countries was the number of USB drives that had no attempt made to remove data. Even so, the proportion of thumb drives from which data could be recovered was almost the same: 68% in the UK and 67% in the US.

Permanently Wipe Data on USB Drive

Why did previous owners leave data on the second-hand USB drives? According to the study, the cause is duple.

On one hand, not enough persons are aware of the risks of leaving data on USB drives before selling them.

On the other hand, persons who make an effort to erase the data cannot do it properly and most people fail to erase personal data on USB drives, thus, the data can be recovered. For example, MiniTool Power Data Recovery, professional data recovery software, can help to recover deleted or formatted data from USB drives.

And all recovered data can be used for a wide range of crimes, including identity theft, extortion, and targeted phishing.

To avoid data leak, it is necessary to fully erase data. How to permanently erase data from USB drives?

To do this job, the storage area containing the data must be overridden by using secure data erase software. Here, MiniTool Partition Wizard is worth recommending since it offers a powerful feature called Wipe Disk.

Related article: Wipe Hard Drive Before Selling with an Excellent Drive Wiper

wipe USB drives with MiniTool Partition Wizard

  • Linkedin
  • Reddit