Pin Me

How to Protect Files - Wipe and Clean Encryption

written by: •edited by: Bill Fulks•updated: 7/9/2010

Wipe and clean encryption is a method to secure your privacy on any computer. This article talks about encryption in general and then explains wipe and clean protection for your files.

  • slide 1 of 2

    Wipe and Clean Encryption – An Overview

    Plenty of methods exist to secure your data and privacy on any computer. Wipe and clean encryption is one of those methods. While most of the encryption methods are used to secure files, the wipe and clean encryption is used to remove traces of any files that contain your private data.

    Please note that when you are using wipe and clean encryption, you are deleting not only the file containing your private data, you also making it irrecoverable. If you do not wish to delete the file, you need to use some other kind of encryption and decryption such as Hashing. Hashing is a process where the data in your file is multiplied by some random number (also called key) so that others cannot comprehend the contents of your file.

    In short, there are two options for securing your privacy on a computer – 1) hiding (encrypting) the data so that no one else can use it without your permission; and 2) deleting the data and making it irrecoverable. Wipe and clean encryption falls under the second category.

    The first method involves usage of several types of algorithms to hide your data, one of them being hash encryption as discussed above. Another similar method is Cryptography. Among other methods is Steganography where your data is transformed into a watermark and is applied to a file containing random data or an image. As the real data is just a watermark, it is covered by the random data so that none can comprehend it. Only the people having the Steganography software can decrypt the data to understand it. Steganography is just one of the many file encryption methods. If interested, please read our article on Disk Encryption software that offers an introduction to encrypting entire disks and compares few software that help in disk encryption.

  • slide 2 of 2

    How Wipe and Clean Encryption Works?

    Let us understand how Wipe and Clean encryption works. Whenever you save a new file, your operating system makes an entry to a file allocation table (FAT) and notes down its address (its location on the hard disk). You can consider FAT as a register that contains the address of all the partitions, folders, subfolders, and files on any physical storage device. When you delete a file, your operating system removes only the address in the FAT. Thus, the physical data still exists on the storage device, making it easy for any computer expert to recover the data. To securely delete the file, you need to erase the physical data as well. This is what Wipe and Clean encryption is all about. When you use this technique, the related software checks for the file and overwrites it with random data. This way, even if someone tries to recover the file, they get trash – unusable data.

    Generally classified, there are two types of wipe and clean software – 1) the first type erase entire disk contents and 2) the second type are applicable only for files.

    If you use a disk erasing software, it deletes all the files on the disk and wipes them (overwrites them one or more time) to make it unreadable. However, disk erasing software leave out traces that tell that the disk was erased. Compared to disk erasing software, the ones that act on file(s) leave out smaller traces that are so insignificant that none can tell that you erased some file. However, in this case, experts can still bring up the data by using temporary files and broken file chunks. To minimize this risk, use software that also deletes any temporary files found on the computer. Some of the best software are mentioned in our other article on wipe and clean encryption.