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Data Removal

Type: data threat prevention security

When data is stored on a file system it is given an entry into a directory and when data is deleted the directory entry is marked or deleted in order to indicate that the data can be overwritten in the future. However the data itself is not deleted at this time, this means that potentially sensitive or critical data may exist on a data storage device despite the instruction to delete it. Software is easily and freely available to recover deleted data with minimal expertise.

The practise of “Dumpster Diving” in relation to computer security is a potential threat that is often overlooked by individuals and companies. “Dumpster Diving” is the recovery of old computers that have been thrown away, the data on the computer can be searched using special recovery software. Even though the computer is old and all data was deleted through conventional means, the computer may still contain data that remains sensitive or critical to the company. Also in the event of computer theft, data could be recovered from stolen equipment. This would result in the theft becoming not only physical theft but a theft of data as well.

In order to avoid the threat of data theft via data recovery, sensitive and critical data need to be permanently erased. This can be achieved using software often referred to as anti-forensic software; this software is used to permanently delete data. The permanent deletion of data is achieved by overwriting the actual data itself several times. Although such software tools are often frowned upon due to there disreputable uses in helping criminals cover up computer crimes, using such software to protect sensitive or critical company data is perfectly legitimate.


Eraser Portable is an example of a data removal tool and can be freely downloaded, Eraser portable, as the name suggests, can be run on a portable device such as a USB portable drive. Eraser can delete folders and files on demand but can also be configured to delete files according to a schedule; this can be used to automatically clear a folder of critical data on regular intervals.