Finally made it into print January 2004

Scrub that drive to protect your sources

Infernal machines

A MEMBER writes in needing computer advice. Another one. This one, though, raises an important journalistic issue:

Something rather interesting - and concerning - happened to me the other day which I want to share with other journos and seek advice. I got a guy in to fix my computer and he reconfigured my hard drive. In doing so, he lost all my recent emails, but interestingly he recovered, inadvertently, all emails between January and March 2003 which I had deleted sometime in May.

This raises a problem about protecting sources. I get a lot of emails from people working in the industry - and obviously I always guarantee anonymity. But can I do so if their emails are on my computer even after deletion?

I am told that defragmenting will actually destroy this memory of deleted files, but is that true?

Defragging may make it a bit harder for a Court officer, say, to recover deleted files. But not necessarily, and not necessarily much harder. To be sure that messages and files you've deleted disappear and stay disappeared, you need to run a program that thorougly erases them. (And not one of those that are promoted in spam emails!)

There's a guide, which the Freelance thinks is comprehensive and in plain English, at www.freelancenews.org/0201hide.html. Comments welcome.

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