Naked Scientists uncovers cyber security risks

Hardware Porn 11 of 23 Credit: DijitalTim on flickr
Hardware Porn 11 of 23 Credit: DijitalTim on flickr

Today, Sunday 30 December at 7pm, Cambridge University’s Chris Smith and his fellow ’Naked Scientists’ will present Science Night, which dedicates the first hour of the programme to examining some of the cyber security dangers currently facing technology users.

In the first feature, the team describe just how easy it is to recover previously deleted items from hardware.

After purchasing several random second-hand hard-drives from an online auction site, the team sent them on to a local data recovery company who have successfully retrieved large amounts of previously-deleted files including confidential information from a variety of different sources – individuals, businesses and organisations alike.

While initially the hard-drives appeared to be clean, it proved to be an easy exercise to access the previous owner’s personal information.

Commenting on the findings, Chris said: "We were shocked at the type of data that was easily recoverable from second-hand hardware readily available to purchase online. Computer users do tend to delete files from their hardware before selling on the items, but what this shows is that there is a serious lack of understanding when it comes to making sure that stored information is not just simply deleted, but erased irretrievably, which is a different thing altogether.

"We will talk to listeners about how they can safely ensure that any data previously stored on their unwanted items is securely removed and unobtainable to potential scammers, along with highlighting some of the other security risks that technology users should be aware of."

Also on the show, Chris and the team explain how a researcher from Cambridge University’s Computer Science Lab has created a device using easily accessible materials, that allows the user to over-ride the pin numbers of debit and credit cards when used in chip and pin machines.

Plus, find out how potential identity thieves can tap into the wi-fi on android phones to gather detailed personal information about the owner including where they live.

The second hour of Science Night will focus on microbiology and the trillions of bacteria that live in and on the human body. A Manchester-based researcher will reveal how she’s engineering coatings for worktops – and even false teeth – that can prevent bacteria from gaining a toe-hold. The team will also explore whether gaining weight is down to the bugs some people carry in their intestines, and they’ll demonstrate how, using a laser pointer, listeners can build their own microscope to reveal bacteria swimming in samples of water…

Science Night will broadcast on BBC Radio 5 live on Sunday 30 December from 7.00pm-9.00pm.

You can listen to BBC Radio 5 live and 5 live sports extra via DAB radio, online at, Digital Freeview, Sky, Freesat, Virgin Media and 909 & 693 AM.