Is deleted data really deleted?

It is often believed that moving a file to the rubbish bin, and emptying it is a permanent deletion. After all, Windows and other operating systems ask if you would like to permanently delete the items inside when you attempt to empty the bin. They may also say that the files cannot be recovered after deletion. Both statements are misleading and false.

When a file is deleted on most operating systems, the only item that is truly deleted is the reference file. The reference file only pinpoints were in your operating system the date for the file is. The data itself is still on the operating system and can be recovered by governments, hackers, people with your stolen device or yourself with free software such as Recova, Puran File Recovery and many others. The data is recoverable until it’s overwritten. Something which may never occur on large disks. This may be a serious blow to privacy and security, of individuals who handle sensitive information on their devices. Fortunately there are options.

Encryption: By encrypting files and operating systems deleted data is already scrambled. If it were recovered it would be unreadable and would not be useful to hackers or investigators.

Secure deletion: Secure deletion not only deletes the reference file, but scrambles, or replaces the bits of data (the binary 0s and 1s your files are made of) on your hard drive with zeros. No recovery tool is able to recover scrambled or zeroed data. Unfortunately Windows doesn’t offer a secure deletion feature and third party software is required to safe delete. Eraser does the job with relative ease and efficiency for Windows. It is an open source program available on sourceforge for free. After it’s installation right click folders or files and  hover over eraser.  Then select erase. The file will be safely deleted and will truly be permanently deleted.

Unfortunately Eraser only has a Windows version. For Linux alternatives click here or go to the link below.

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