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Computer Donations and Security

Why do people just not think and give out very personal information about them? I don't think that most people think about how much personal information they just give away on old computers and other paperwork. While it occurs less often today, people used to give floppies to others and those floppies could also contain personal information unless all the data was erase from it.

Information security seems to be an area which many people just don't think about. How many people do you know who use a paper shredders for paperwork that they are throwing away? How many of those people use a cross cut paper shredder?

Those are good first steps, but often people do not think much about computer security, especially when they are getting rid of their computers or even floppies, CDs backup tapes, etc.

Some people think that when you delete a file on the computer it is gone, never to be seen again, but that is far from the truth. The fact is that on most computer systems all that is removed when you delete a file is the directory entry and that is typically done by changing the first character. The disk space is also marked as available, but the data is still there and it is easy to recover the file. There are many tools to do this. A good first step is to remove all the files, but even at that if you use Microsquish products then you also need to consider the registry. The registry can also contact personal information and it can be hard to get rid of it, other than wiping out the whole operating system.

If you plan on donating or getting rid of a computer, do yourself a favor and make sure that all the data on the system is really erased. There are levels of paranoia that you can use, but just a basic level tends to be good enough for most people. If the government really wants to get the data off your computer, they have the resources to do so. This means a lower level wiping of the data will be good enough.

There are free programs, such as "Darik's Boot and Nuke", available at

Any place which accepts donations should wipe the disks, but I doubt that most do.



Index for Insanity, Inc.

Written: 04-Jun-2005

Updated: 04-Jun-2005

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