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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Donated devices: safety first

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How to ensure donated devices have been safely prepared before passing them on to service users.

Many charities have recently encouraged the public to donate their old laptops, tablets and other devices to schoolchildren. This makes a huge difference, as it means more schoolchildren can learn at home during the Covid-19 lockdown.

As the National Cyber Security Centre, we want to help charities make sure that any devices they pass on don't contain viruses, malware, or any of the previous owners' data.

This is especially important given these unprecedented times of high (and often unsupervised) internet use.

We encourage all charities involved in donating devices to follow the advice in this article, to ensure that all donated devices are safe to use.

1. Encourage donors to erase their data

Please encourage anyone who is donating their device to:

  • take a backup copy of all the information they want to keep
  • erase all their personal data on it

- before handing it over. Failing to do this could mean their personal data falling into the wrong hands.

Please encourage the donor to do this themselves, rather than doing it for them. The NCSC has created user-friendly guidance that explains exactly how they can do this, and why it's important.

2. Erase all data on donated devices

All donated devices should be wiped before they're distributed, even if you're told the donor has already erased their data. This is usually called a 'factory reset' (the exact name of this feature will depend on which type of device you have). You may need to refer to the manufacturer's website to find out how to do this. To get you started, we've included links to the major phone and computer manufacturers.

Reset your Android device to factory settings

Erase your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch

Reset your Chromebook to factory settings

Start afresh with a clean installation of Windows 10

How to restore macOS

3. Avoid passing on devices that are no longer supported

As the recipient charity, you have a responsibility to ensure that you provide secure, up-to-date devices. Avoid passing on devices that are no longer supported by the manufacturer (or whose support period will end soon). If someone uses a device that is no longer supported:

  • it won't receive the security updates from the manufacturer (and without these the device is easier to hack)
  • it won't receive updates that contain new features and performance improvements

You can check online to see if specific models can still receive updates from the manufacturer. Here are the details for Apple products, Chrome, and Pixel/Nexus devices.

Apple's list of unsupported devices

Chrome OS (e.g. Chromebooks)

Google Pixel devices

Other Android devices (i.e. Samsung or Huawei devices)

Windows 7 is no longer supported, but many devices running Windows 7 can be updated to Windows 10.

Devices that are no longer supported should be returned to the donor, or recycled in line with your EEE WEEE policy.

4. Help the recipient stay secure online

When you hand over the device, please provide the parent/carer with a link to the NCSC's Cyber Aware website. This provides them with advice to help them to stay safe online.

This month’s problem page was provided by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), which has a range of advice and guidance on cyber security and the digital world.