Computer Privacy and Identity Theft Protection

"An elephant never forgets," or so they say. The same is true for your computer. In fact, when it comes to protecting your privacy and preventing identity theft, your computer just might be your worst enemy. That's because virtually every piece of information that has ever passed through your machine is locked somewhere within, regardless of whether you deleted it or if it was a "temporary" file. This isn't some evil conspiracy hatched by Microsoft (Macs and Linux computers do it too). It's just the way computers work.

In order to perform system functions, launch programs, edit files and visit websites, your computer is constantly logging your activity, creating temporary copies of documents and saving cached versions of webpages on your hard drive. All these residual files are like internal memos at a corporation-they are never meant to see the light of day outside the office walls, but in order for the different departments to work together, sensitive information has to be printed off, copied and circulated. When the memos have served their purpose, they get tossed. But the problem is that no one ever takes out the trash.

The same is true for your computer. There are literally years worth of information still lingering throughout your system, including login information, passwords, photos, web browsing history-you name it. When you "delete" this data, it never really gets deleted. For one, there could be dozens of previous versions of it still floating around in caches and temporary folders. But more importantly, the information still physically exists on your hard drive right where it was before. The only difference is that your system has marked it as "free" space, meaning other programs are free to overwrite that sector if they need the disk space. In order to restore that document, all one would have to do is ignore that label stating that it's "free" space. It's a bit like when a building inspector condemns a building or rezones a property. Someone else is free to tear down the structure and build on that land-but until they do, the old building will still stand.

On your computer, accessing "deleted" data can easily be done with one of many "undelete" and file recovery programs widely available on the Internet for less than $30. These programs are touted as conveniences, which in some cases, they are. More than a few of us have mistakenly deleted something that was actually important-term papers, presentations, honeymoon photos. But when it comes to security, the way your computer deletes (or doesn't delete) your data is a liability. Someone accessing your computer remotely (i.e. a hacker) could very easily "recover" your deleted data. The same goes for someone who buys your used computer on eBay or digs your discarded, failed hard drive out of the dumpster.

This has been an issue for decades. Yet still, there are no built-in system operations designed for securely deleting your data. On the contrary, Windows tends to do everything it can to keep all historical data, in case you want to perform a system restore or recover a lost file. And with hard drives getting larger and larger every day, the chances that a "deleted" file could go untouched indefinitely are vastly increasing.

So, what should you do to protect your identity? Should you never buy anything off the Internet again or import your pictures to your computer? Fortunately, you don't have to unplug and go Luddite to protect your identity. All you need is R-Wipe & Clean - a program that safely and permanently removes all traces of your online and offline activity, as well as individual files.

In this tutorial, we'll show you how to use R-Wipe & Clean to completely and irreversibly erase files from your machine. If you'd like to try it out yourself, you can download a trial copy for free-the program will be fully functional for 15 days while you evaluate the software.

Interface:
R-Wipe & Clean takes a very complex process and gives it an intuitive, easy-to-use graphical interface. All it takes is two mouse-clicks to permanently remove your sensitive data.

1. Check the item you'd like to wipe/clean and then:
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2....click "Clean" to complete the process.
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There are two separate views for navigating and selecting files on your system: the Bar view and the Tree view. The Bar view is a straight-forward, graphical menu, while the Tree view gives you more control and lets you make more detailed selections.

Bar view Tree view
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In the Customize panel, you can choose which items to show and which to hide. If you never want to wipe or delete a certain set of data, you can remove it from the list so it won't appear as an option. If you'd like to restore it later, you can always activate it again in the Customize panel.
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You can select an entire category of data by clicking the parent item on the list. This will bring up details about all of the sub-items in the pane to the left. In this way, you can clean and wipe an entire data type or program history in a single batch.
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If you'd like a more detailed view of the contents, you can click the individual item on the left. This will pull up the contents and filenames of the items that will be deleted.
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There are two options for deletion. Files, logs and histories can be simply deleted (faster, less secure) or they can be wiped and then deleted (slower, more secure).

Off-line activity:
Just like Internet Explorer keeps track of your browsing history, Windows keeps tabs on recently opened documents, search results, launched programs, mapped network drives and other data, such as registry traces, temporary files, system history, swap files and much, much more. R-Wipe & Clean can wipe and clean almost all personal and system traces (excluding information that is vital for the system's operation).
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R-Wipe & Clean is even able to access and delete logs and histories from system processes that are typically locked from user access. In order to completely erase the contents of these logs, R-Wipe & Clean may try to stop a service temporarily until the process is complete. If the process isn't stopped, the data can be erased at the next system startup.
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File and free space wiping:
There are a number of wiping algorithms that can be used to securely delete files from your hard drive. Faster methods are less secure and slower methods are the most secure. The most secure wiping algorithm used by R-Wipe & Clean is approved by the U.S. Department of Defense. Each algorithm has additional options. You can choose to also "Wipe alternate data streams" (such as a thumbnail of an image) and "Wipe cluster tips" (leftover clusters only partially filled with data). R-Wipe & Clean also deletes files stored directly in the NTFS Master File Table.
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You can save pre-set wipe lists for common procedures. This can save you time if you regularly wipe certain files, logs and directories. You can choose files and folders for inclusion in a wipe list directly from Windows Explorer, much like you'd share a folder or add data to a burn list.
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You can also wipe files and folders directly from Windows Explorer one at a time instead of sending it to the Recycle Bin and then wiping it. Free space can be deleted from the disk's Properties menu. Simply right-click a disk or drive and choose Properties, then click the R-Wipe & Clean tab.
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Cleaning of application traces
R-Wipe & Clean can also wipe away traces from over 400 applications. If an application isn't included in the default list, you can create a wipe list for it. R-Wipe & Clean can wipe away all traces, including files, folders and registry entries.
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Online activity
R-Wipe & Clean is also more effective at deleting browser history and Internet activity than the options available in the application's normal preferences. R-Wipe & Clean can remove all traces of Internet activity, including visited sites, saved passwords, temporary Internet files, cookies, cached web pages and more. R-Wipe & Clean supports all major browsers and toolbars, including:
Browsers:

  • Internet Explorer
  • Netscape
  • AOL
  • MSN Explorer
  • Opera
  • Mozilla
  • Mozilla Firefox
  • BT Yahoo
  • Safari
  • Flock
  • Google Chrome
  • SeaMonkey
Toolbars:
  • Google
  • Windows Live
  • Yahoo!

R-Wipe & Clean allows you to specify which cookies you'd like to delete and which you'd like to save. To prevent R-Wipe & Clean from removing your cookies, simply add it to your Favorites list.
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Scheduler
R-Wipe & Clean adds even more convenience with its powerful scheduler feature. This versatile schedule allows you to run a preset wipe task at a specified date and time (i.e. August 8th at 5PM) or at recurring intervals (i.e. once a week or once a month). You can schedule multiple tasks to run at pre-set times, or you can setup tasks and launch them manually from R-Wipe & Clean or from a command line.
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You can also setup R-Wipe & Clean to launch scheduled tasks during certain system events. For example, you can have it wipe all Internet activity whenever a browser is closed, or you can have the program do a complete system cleaning at every System shutdown. These tasks can be easily activated or deactivated with a click of the mouse.
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Versatile event handling. A task can be scheduled to a date/time, an event like logon or browser closing, or a time interval.

Manually The wipe and clean task will never start automatically. You may start it manually
On The wipe and clean task will start on a specified date at a specified time or the first system startup
Every The wipe and clean task will start at a specified event:
Time interval Each specified time interval
Day At a specified time or the first system startup
Week Each weekday at a specified time or the first system startup
Month Each month day at a specified time or the first system startup
User Logon Each user logon
System Startup Each system startup. The task will start when the first user logs on after the system startup
User Logoff Each user logoff
System Shutdown Each system shutdown. Please note that when you make your system to restart while there is a task scheduled at system shutdown, a warning message will appear, your system will shut down, and you will have to start up it manually.
Closing a Browser Each closing a particular browser or any of them

Additional features of R-Wipe & Clean:

  • For items that typically require a system restart to delete, R-Wipe & Clean can delete them immediately by stopping the service or process or execute the wipe task during the next user logon/logoff or computer startup/shutdown.
  • Standby/hibernate control: R-Wipe & Clean will stop your computer from hibernate, so as not to interrupt a long job.
  • Stealth mode: R-Wipe & Clean can run surreptitiously in the background.

R-Wipe & Clean is a safer, more secure way to permanently delete your files. R-Wipe & Clean seeks out all the residual traces and footprints left behind by your online and offline activity and eliminates your sensitive data so it can't be retrieved. As an added benefit, wiping these extraneous files helps free up disk space and improve the overall performance of your machine.

For more details about R-Wipe & Clean's full capabilities, read the R-Wipe & Clean manual.
Also, join the discussion about R-Wipe & Clean on the R-TT Forum.

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