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Emergency Data Destruction

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Do you remember the leaked pictures and documents from a Maldivian Minister's computer? Are you planning to sell your PC? Even if you formatted your hard disk, your data is still there. Anybody with the right tools can recover your data easily. All your photos, personal documents may appear on social networking sites the next day. Or worse, your financial records, your credit card information and your passwords may be leaked.

Another scenario…you are an activist, secretly working to topple an autocratic government, and one day somebody knocks your door. You find out that they are from the secret service, and you have tons of information on your computer which they can use against you. What do you do?

The easiest and best solution is to remove the hard drive and keep it somewhere safe. What if you need to destroy the data on the hard disk? Well, opportunely big-hearted programmers have developed applications which wipe out the data completely from your storage device.

DBAN — All-At-Once Data Destruction
One program that will do this for you is Darik's Boot and Nuke (DBAN), which  securely wipes out the data completely. Best of all, it is open source and free. DBAN also has an enterprise version which comes with network booting and technical support.

Darik's Boot and Nuke is available for the Macintosh and PC as an ISO file for CD/DVD. Furthermore DBAN provides a utility to make a bootable floppy disk which can also be used to destroy data on a computer.

To securely wipe out any data on your system, all you have to do is boot with the CD/DVD or the floppy disk. DBAN will entirely wipe out any data in all of the hard disks it detects, automatically.

How to make a DBAN CD/DVD:
1. Download DBAN for recent Intel and AMD computers.
2. Burn the ISO file to a blank CD/DVD with CD/DVD burning software such as Nero and CD Burner XP (the default ISO burning options should work). If you can’t determine how to burn an ISO file then refer to the CD/DVD burner software’s manual.

How to use the DBAN CD/DVD:
1. To annihilate the data on your PC insert the DBAN CD/DVD in the CD/DVD drive of your computer.
2. Now restart the system.
3. By default the first boot device is set to CD/DVD. If not then edit your BIOS settings and configure the BIOS to boot from the CD/DVD (you can usually get to the BIOS with the Delete or F2 keys; watch the screen during startup and it should tell you, or consult your system's documentation).
4. DBAN will execute itself automatically and now you can choose to destroy your data. Wait for it to finish its work.

Eraser — A Scalpel Instead of a Broadsword
DBAN cannot delete individual files on your computer; it once executed wipes everything on the hard disks it detects. If you want to delete individual files on your PC securely there is another utility called Eraser.

Like DBAN, Eraser is also free. It is released under GNU General Public License. Eraser is only available for Windows. It works with Windows 98, ME, NT, 2000, XP, Vista, Windows Server 2003 and Server 2008.

Eraser is very user-friendly. Once installed, Eraser is accessible in the Windows Explorer right-click context menu. Choose the file, right-click it, select Eraser, and it's gone for good.

Both of these programs are great and become very handy in certain situations. To conclude I would like to thank the developers of these software for their valuable and generous work to help the computer users.

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About shaamil

  • For those not in the know, formatting your hard drive generally only deletes the file tables and/or the master boot record. In layman’s terms, it erases the table of contents on the drive, opening it all up to be rewritten, but doesn’t actually delete the existing data on the drive. It will overwrite it when instructed to do so as you refill the drive, but that data stays in place and can be read by forensic data recovery tools until then.

    What serious drive wiping programs do is go back over every sector of the drive and wipe it back to zero (or some other combination of zeros and ones you specify, depending on the program used). Secure Erasers like DBAN mentioned in this article, DOD Wipe, and others do this sort of thing, and can be at the level of wipe security used by the government.

    If you’re a total technophobe and don’t want to be bothered configuring software to wipe a drive, you can opt to shred the drive physically, making it extremely difficult to rebuild the data off the platters inside. Special equipment or some drop-off services are usually required to complete this sort of task.

  • Green

    Interestingly enough, DBAN and it’s enterprise counterpart, EBAN are pretty much industry standard and far more versatile than their competitors. The best thing abouth DBan is the fact it’s completely stand-alone with a linux boot kernel, meaning that it’ll boot on any i486 and above PC, mac, server, you name it. However, overwrite software has one flaw- it’s slow. Degaussing and shredding are far faster for large quantities.