Storing information

Published 7:00 am Saturday, September 6, 2014

This week the news media was abuzz with reports that a number of film stars had their iCloud accounts hacked.

Subsequently, nude photos of these celebrities were disseminated throughout the World Wide Web for all to see.

Even though those affected thought they had deleted the photos from their online accounts, they obviously were not gone forever.

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Here’s a little insight into why the photos were still accessible.

Hard drives and other electronic storage devices store information via various methods. 

The typical mechanical hard drive stores information magnetically. Flash drives and Solid State Drives store information on a series of electronic chips, called flash memory.

The thing is, when you tell your computer to delete information stored on any kind of device, magnetic or flash based, it’s not really deleted. The file system really just logged that space as usable space again, allowing other information to be written over that space when it’s needed.

So in essence, unless something else has been written onto that location, the information you thought you deleted can be recovered by those who know how.

So how do you protect your private photos from being disseminated for the world to see?

First, don’t store private photos of yourself on a cloud based storage system. That’s just asking for trouble. Cloud storage is essentially a series of computer servers that you can access remotely via the Internet. They store files in the exact same manner as your computer. Even if you delete the files, they are still on the server.

Instead, store sensitive files on a drive that is in your home and not connected to the Internet.

If you want to remove sensitive information, there are only two ways to do this; destroy the drive, or you could perform a zero fill. Basically it involves writing all zeros on the entire drive. The method varies by drive manufacturer, so do some research.