These days every single person generates dataat an unprecedented rate. Worryingly, much of it goes into the cloud whichtakes it out of your hands and into that of large corporations. You simply haveto hope that their policies and security measures are good enough to entrustyour data to.
But what about data stored locally on yourcomputer or mobile device? If someone got their hands on your storage media,could they recover information that you’ve deleted? In case you didn’t know,most of the time “deleting” information from your hard drive, SD card orphone’s internal storage doesn’t actually destroy the data. Instead, that partof the disk is simply marked as “free space” so that new data can be writtenover it.
The problem is that various techniques existto recover deleted files from free space. Thanks to full-disk encryption, thatnot as much of a problem as it’s been in the past. However, if someone managesto log into your device, the fact that your disk is encrypted means nothing.
That’s where free space file shredders comeinto the picture. These software applications run special data erasingprotocols over the free space areas where your file data may still exist,making it virtually impossible for any information to be recovered. So when youdelete sensitive information such as medical, legal or financial documents, youcan rest assured its gone for good.
Here we’ve got five great examples of fileshredding programs for each of the most popular operating systems. Remember,it’s not paranoia if someone really is out to get you.
File Shredder (Windows)
File Shredder is a free and open sourceapplication that lets you utterly destroy data and properly erase the freespace on your Windows hard drives using the “Disk Wiper” option. There are fiveshredding algorithms included with File Shredder, each is more powerful thanthe last. However, stronger shredding requires more time and CPU power.
Apart from being free, it’s an advantage thatthis software is open source. Anyone in the community can ensure that there isno malicious code or back door functionality in it. The downside is mainly thatthere’s no support for the tool. Luckily the author has included acomprehensive list of commercial alternatives on the File Shredder home page,if you feel like spending some money.
BitRaser for File (Mac)
Speaking of spending money, if you own a Mac and want that same data-destroying goodness, you’ll have to spend a few dollars on BitRaser for File, from developer Stellar.
While there are some free applications on the Mac store that promise to do the same job, they are generally less specialized than BitRaser and less friendly. Which seems counter to the reasons Mac users love their computers in the first place.
That said, as around $40, BitRaser isn’t allthat expensive and only does one thing as well as possible. You can destroyindividual files, wipe entire hard drives and free space. It also has afunction to automatically destroy sensitive data such as internet browsinghistories and cached information.
It includes six data wiping algorithms tochoose from and, best of all, let’s you schedule and automate wiping tasks. Soeven if you can’t get to your computer, you can ensure that certain data cannever be recovered.
Our entire lives now live on our phones andthere are probably more than a few items sitting on your Android smartphoneright now you’d rather no one else ever saw. The good news is that with an applike Shreddit, permanently destroying that data is a piece of cake.
It’s fast, depending on which erasurealgorithm you use. Some of the options on offer use up to seven passes, to really ensure that no data recovery expert willget that data back.
The app is integrated with the Android file explorer and can operate on both internal and external media. The main caveat here is that anyone on Android 4.4 or later will need to root their phones to use Shreddit on their SD card.
So if you aren’t willing to do that, keep your sensitive information on internal storage only. This shouldn’t be a problem for most people however, since modern phones either don’t have SD expansion slots or have so much internal storage that SD cards aren’t particularly useful.
The app is ad-supported, but you can make asmall donation to remove advertising.
Linux already has some pretty powerfuldisk-wiping functionality built in, but using a program like BleachBit is amuch more user-friendly experience. It can automatically erase sensitive datafrom many common applications in addition to offering file shredding functionsand free space wiping.
BleachBit is completely free, but will takedonations to support development. It’s an incredibly popular shredding up amongLinux users and given how useful it is that’s no surprise. If you want toimprove the data privacy of your Linux machine, this is undoubtedly the firststop you should make.
iShredder is available for Android, Windowsand Mac, but it’s being highlighted here for being one of the few iOS shreddersout there. The software is not free, but will set you back around thirty bucks.iShredder can securely wipe the entire device, before handing it over tosomeone else.
It can also quickly wipe the free space onyour iDevice, ensuring that all the stuff you’ve deleted in the past isunrecoverable. Its deletion algorithms are the same ones used by governmentsand is the most elegant tool we’ve seen for the millions of iOS users in theworld to protect themselves from unwanted data recovery attempts.
Privacy is more important than ever andensuring that the information you want gone staysgone is a good habit to get into. There are, of course, many alternativechoices to the above multi-OS examples. Regardless of which tool you use,you’ll sleep just a little better knowing that no one who nabs one of your harddrive can dig up any dirt, no matter how hard they try.