laptop security

Data Recovery Protection

Anyone concerned about data recovery protection will appreciate the risks that go with putting personal or confidential data on a laptop. Laptop security is not just about protecting data that should be on a PC, but also making sure that once data has been deleted it cannot be recovered. Used or discarded PC's are a prime source of information that can be used for identity theft and fraud.

disk crash

Contrary to popular belief, "deleting" a file from a laptop does not mean it cannot be recovered. Deleting a file doesn't actually delete the data. It deletes the indexes referencing the data and those indexes can be reconstructed.

Data recovery tools are readily available and many of them are free.

The belief that once data is deleted it cannot or will not be recovered is similar to the myth that passwords can be relied upon to secure data. Concerns on either of these fronts are easily dismissed by those who are convinced that no one would bother attempting to recover their deleted data or use password hacking programs on their laptop. It sounds too bizarre. Little do they know how easy it is and how frequently it is done by the most unlikely people.

Whether it's the SEC afer an inside trader, the police attempting to convict a suspect or an identity gathering personal information, their number one objective is to get their hands on the target's laptop or desktop PC. It will reveal a mass of information that may shock, amaze, terrify or even convict.

Another misconception: anyone who knows how to format a hard drive can erase all data on a laptop and accomplish complete data recovery protection. That's not correct either, there are only two ways to completely destroy data on a disk drive. The most thorough and reliable way is to shred or burn the drive. If destroying the physical media isn't an option, then the drive needs to be boot erased with a free hard drive cleaner.

Anyone disposing of a laptop should use a Department of Defense Approved cleaner or hard drive eraser before releasing it. At a minimum it's advisable that the tools comply with the DoD computer erasure disk standards. Used and dumped laptops are an excellent source of negotiable information that can be gathered with little or no personal risk. They are targeted by identity thieves and others who can efficiently reconnect a drive and scan it for useful information. If something of interest is identified, they drill deeper.

Every laptop user with a concern about identity theft protection should also invest in the best available laptop encryption technology. A commercial 128-bit or 256-bit full disk encryption tool will protect sensitive data from being accessed or recovered, subject to the use of a strong and unique pass phrase.

Encryption will also provide data recovery protection if a laptop needs to be sent off for repairs. It's not unknown for computer repair technicians to take the opportunity to check out the files on PC's they're working on. We know this from the many publicized cases where celebrities including judges, politicians and rock stars have been sprung with pedophile images on their computers. What we don't know is what else they may have stumbled across in their spare moments that didn't get public exposure and what if anything they did with it.

Once a laptop develops hardware problems the options become limited. If the hard drive isn't encrypted and it contains sensitive or incriminating data, then the owner needs to develop some computer repair skills, have a trusted relationship with a technician or shred the drive.

A lesson to be deduced from this is the importance of monitoring the health of hard drives. Obtaining a knowledge of hard drive testing utilities maybe a good idea, but full disk encryption is probably a more practical option.

While encryption will provide a high level of data recovery protection for a laptop in daily use, when it's time to replace or dispose of the laptop the drive should be either shredded or boot erased to provide complete data recovery protection. In the absence of these measures sensitive data has an inconvenient way of surviving all sorts of physical assaults including water damage.

Surf The Internet At Work?


Windows and other software programs store history about the different activities that you have performed on your computer and on the Internet. This information is stored in the system areas of your hard disk and the built-in Windows functions like 'Clear History' offer little protection as they can only partially delete this data. Anyone can take a look at your history and find out what you have been doing on your computer, and this raises serious privacy concerns.

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