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All About The (Digital) File Shredder

May 4, 2008
Access and use of information has become one of the most important hallmarks of the century. The growth and proliferation of computer networks, most notably the Internet, has made the exchange of huge volumes of information possible. Advances in computing have also made the use of computers easier and therefore much more common. This has streamlined many otherwise tedious tasks through automation, and has had a very large impact on productivity across the board.

As digital data and storage become more important, security considerations begin to enter the picture. Inevitably, the usefulness of computers would lead to their use in handling, processing, and storing confidential and private data. These security worries are found almost everywhere computers are found nowadays. Companies and organizations use computers to store financial or private data; public computers are often used to access personal data; and private home computers often hold information on credit cards and the like.

There are various security measures that have been developed in response to these needs. Password protection, separate user accounts, and other methods of access authentication are used fairly regularly to help buffer these data from outside exposure. These are useful during the active lifetime of a computer or file. And then of course afterwards, one would expect normal deletion to dispose of the confidential data securely.

In actuality, special pieces of software called file shredders are necessary for secure deletion of files. This is because normal deletion, such as one might perform from any operating system, does not in fact eradicate all traces of the deleted file. Instead, to save processing power, this deletion only changes a few bits of information to mark the file as deleted. A lot of information then remains, enough for file recovery software, in most cases, to be able to bring back the supposedly deleted file or files.

File shredders do a more thorough job of deleting files, by physically overwriting the data to be deleted with randomly generated data. This in effect masks any traces of the deleted data and makes recovery much harder, if not practically impossible.

File shredders are hence invaluable in a lot of situations and applications. You have to perform a financial or otherwise confidential transaction on a public or shared computer? Simply shred the relevant files, and there need not remain any record of the transaction on the computer. You are giving away or transferring an old personal computer? Shred the entire hard drive, and be sure that no personal information would be left on the old computer to be recovered.

File shredders can keep up even with the strictest security requirements. There are various random generation algorithms that are employed, with stronger, more random ones usually requiring more processing power. Stronger algorithms would provide a greater measure of security, at the cost of being more costly, in terms of processing time, but are worth it for some applications. There are many different file shredder programs available, plenty to choose from. This ensures that any particular data security need will surely be met.
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