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Think you deleted that file?…Think Again


by: Steve Linn

One of the best kept secrets about computers is the way they store information.

Here’s a brief example:

Late one night you are home after a long day of work.  You may or may not have had a few alcoholic beverages.   You decide to write a letter to your boss telling her what a terrible job she is doing and to put it where the sun don’t shine.  Then in a brief moment of sanity just before you fire off the email, you decide not to send it and move it to the little trash can on your desktop.  Then the next morning you have a rash of reality and decide not only should you trash the letter, but you should empty the trash can.  There now all the evidence of your late night interlude is gone.

Guess what….it’s still on your computer.

Don’t panic just yet.  Not just any layperson can access the file, in fact the IT professional at your office could not even access it.

However a digital forensics investigator could.

How data is stored on your computer:

In the most simple terms, think of the hard drive as a your grandmothers attic.  Nothing every really gets thrown away until all the space is used up.  In computer speak what this means is that when you delete a file, you just mark it as available to be deleted.  It will never really be deleted until that space is needed.

Leaving data behind is not such a bad thing:

I am going to assume for the moment that you are an upstanding citizen and employee and would never create such a document.  You would rather approach your boss and share your concerns over a latte.

Leaving data behind is a good thing, especially if you accidentally delete files, your hard drive crashes or  you turned off your iCloud and told it to remove all the information it stored (yes this happens quite a bit).

So, if you need your data recovered a digital forensics investigator is the person to call.  In most cases they can recover your information and bring it back to life.

If you did write the letter, and maybe a few more of them that you regret,  then it’s time to start going back to pen and paper with a shredder.

Steve Linn