Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Digital shredding

Everyone who runs a business or those who are concerned about their confidential documents, make sure they shred their documents when they realize that they no longer need it. Shredding old bank documents, telephone bills etc., are common things. There is a strong need for this, undoubtedly.

In this revolutionary digital world, we should also realize the bigger danger that we have. Many do not know or realize that deleting a file from a comp, does not really delete the file's contents. Based on the size of the file, the fragmentation on the physical storage, the amount of free space left, the number of files written later to the disk (etc., etc.,), a portion or even the whole file may not get over-written at all -- thus facilitating the recovery of the file. The odds of recovery is higher on magnetic disks (unfortunately, the typical HDD medium so far) -- it seems to have a (fairly) non-zero success rate even on an over-written file. This is why the digital shredders usually write various unique patterns over and over again to completely shred the file from recovery.

To quote just one example, it is a common practice, to write down username and passwords on desktop temporarily and deleting it after use -- well it's not over then. It is a bitter truth that someone who gets hold of your hard disk today can retrieve quite some "deleted" confidential data. The odds of losing a disk is pretty high when it is a laptop or when it is a portable hard drive -- these devices aren't uncommon anyways.

There are so many free file shredders available to choose from. Most of them integrate an option to the Explorer's right click menu on the file, so it is easy to use. You can even choose the shredding algorithm to use based on the size of the file and the extent of confidentiality. The stronger the algorithm, the slower it is in shredding. I use this File Shredder, but that's just one among many.

In the digital world, it is so risky that when the damage occurs it is faster than we could react. If you are thinking about shredding your files when you sense a danger, you might most likely fail to do so successfully. It would rather be a good idea to shred (instead of just deleting) the files as when you are done with it. It should come as a practice so we leave less footprint of confidential information overall.

But beware, you can't ever recover the file if you accidentally shred it!! everything comes at a price, ain't it?

1 comment:

  1. I always wondered how the file recovery stuff happens. And I also wonder till date how one can recover files even after they have been over-written. But thanks for the tool. Even a thing like deleting file needs a shredder and various algorithms. Whoa! That's something.