Privacy Alerts - Hard Drive Security

Protecting your hard drive and hard disk security

Ladies and Gentlemen, all your information for everything you do on your computer is stored on your hard drive (a.k.a. hard disk). Program documents like your Excel spreadsheet of your finances, TurboTax forms, and online browsing history are all just sitting there.

Identity theft:

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ranked ID theft as its top reported concern in 2006 with over 250,000 complaints (that's like half of the population of Washington D.C.). Identity theft has become a serious problem in the United States.

Imagine the value and quantity of your personal information stored on your hard drive. Now imagine if it got into the wrong hands...

Other issues that can affect your computer security: Malware

Malware is software designed to infiltrate or damage a computer system without the owner's informed consent. Malware includes: viruses , worms , trojans , spyware , dishonest adware, and other malicious and unwanted software. See our guide to malware and what to do about it here.

Virus- a computer program that can copy as well as modify itself, and infect a computer. A virus most often spreads from one computer to another when its host is taken to the uninfected computer via a network, internet download, or a removable medium (e.g. CD, USB drive).

Worm- a computer program that affects networks by duplicating itself onto other nodes (computers) on the network.

Trojan- a program that installs malicious software while under the guise of doing something else (or named something else).

Spyware- a computer program that is installed secretly to intercept or take partial control over the user's interaction with that computer without informed consent. Spyware programs can collect various types of personal information, but can also interfere with user control of the computer in other ways, such as: installing additional software, creating opportunities for additional software to install, redirecting Web browser activity, or diverting advertising revenue to a third party.

Adware- a software package which automatically plays, displays, or downloads advertising material to a computer. Dishonest adware is adware that is installed without informed consent or with false pretense.

Solutions

So, what should you do to protect your hard drive?

Use a solid security set up. This typically includes an array of security tools: anti-virus, anti-spyware, and firewall (Firewall: is hardware or software that is configured to generally permit or deny data to a computer or a computer network.)

One final—crucial—ingredient to any security set up is YOUR COMMON SENSE.

You can have the most expensive security programs in the entire world, but if you have horrible computer or online browsing habits your chances of a security issue and/or invasion of privacy are greatly increased.

First line of privacy protection:

  • Using passwords to protect user profiles and files. This helps ensure that only authorized users can open a data file. (That's to say that it would take a hacker longer to get into the file).
     
  • The quality of your password is crucial to your hard drive security. To learn more about how to make a strong password, please click here.
     
  • Use encryption software for files.
     
  • Never leave private data unattended. Be certain to log out if you are at a public terminal. Be sure not to leave your laptop unattended.

Getting rid of an old hard drive? Think Security.

When getting rid of an old hard drive, there are a handful of necessary considerations. First and foremost, you need to ask yourself if you know and trust the recipient of the hard drive. If you're giving it away to Uncle Jerry, you probably don't need to take the same security cautions as you do if you sell it to an unknown person on Craigslist.

So here's some stuff you should know:

When you just delete your files from the hard drive, a data salvage expert can often still retrieve them until they are overwritten by another file. The overwrite time window varies according to the size of the hard disk, how often new data/files are added, and how often the hard drive is defragmented.

Second line of privacy protection:

Here are some ways to rid of information on your hard drive in a more secure fashion:

1) One common way is to reformat the hard drive and reinstall the operating system (FYI, common operating systems are Windows (98, ME, XP, Vista), Mac OS, and Linux.). This will completely clear the information from the old operating system including files that were on it.

2) If you don't want to get bogged down in the technicalities of installing an operating system, you can buy "bleaching" software. "Bleaching" software writes over deleted files and unwritten spaces on the drive so the old system is whipped out completely and is starting from scratch again.

3) If you're really paranoid... You need to destroy your hard drive. This is the most certain way of destroying information on it. That means taking it apart and beating it with a hammer or even putting a blow torch to it. It's been reported that U.S. government agencies use a hard drive shredder. That must look intimidating.

4) Most e-waste disposal sites offer the service of wiping your entire computer clean before recycling your hard drive. Being secure and saving the earth in well fell swoop; you can't beat that.

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Comments

James Hedwig

September 22, 2007 at 9:05 AM

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Karvin Dev

September 22, 2007 at 12:33 PM

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James Hedwig

September 22, 2007 at 1:17 PM

That question is becoming increasingly important as privacy matters and technology become harder and harder to control. On a weekly basis US government and company databases are breached by identity thieves and compromised by employee carelessness.


Nayan Patel

September 22, 2007 at 1:17 PM

That question is becoming increasingly important as privacy matters and technology become harder and harder to control. On a weekly basis US government and company databases are breached by identity thieves and compromised by employee carelessness.


Kiran Patel

September 22, 2007 at 1:16 PM

That question is becoming increasingly important as privacy matters and technology become harder and harder to control. On a weekly basis US government and company databases are breached by identity thieves and compromised by employee carelessness.

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