How Can You Be Sure Your Data Is Really Deleted?

Photographed by Savanna Ruedy.
The hacking fear is real, especially when it comes to our personal data and the more, well, sensitive photos we keep on our devices. Surely, the best practice is to clear out your store regularly, deleting anything nonessential, unflattering, or incriminating. But once you see your files minimize into that tiny trash can icon, are they really gone for good? Unfortunately, "out of sight, out of mind" does not apply to data. A recent video from Brit Lab thoroughly debunks deleting as we know it, explaining that even when a file is removed from our computer or phone, it often remains on some kind of backup, either on your own hard drive or in the cloud (a remote network of computers and servers that store information). Even old data on a phone you give away or sell can be accessed with the right software. If you're working with a hard drive, your best bet is to use a software program that will scramble your data and render it useless if it were to fall into the wrong hands. The video adds that you can destroy a hard drive for good if you happen to have an incredibly powerful magnet or flamethrower lying around — this is great advice if you're also a Bond villain, but is a bit impractical for most of us. Now, let's return to the all-knowing cloud. First, make your peace with the fact that it won't let go of your old files, so you need to do what you can to protect them. In other words, it's time to adopt this mantra: encrypt, encrypt, encrypt. Encrypting data stored on the cloud will ensure that it can't be read without you entering your password first. And, yes, everything comes back to passwords. They matter. Make sure you have a good one (you can get more help with that here). Check out the full video below to get the lowdown on what really happens when you delete something. And remember — the cloud is always watching.

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