Many people assume that their files are already safely destroyed when they put them into the “trash” icon on a computer desktop. Even more people feel that they are adequately deleted when they empty the trash and can no longer locate those files themselves. And some people even go one step further to utilize a free file shredder.
This may be fine when you simply realize that, say, this new rock-and-roll opera you are writing isn’t working out. However, many people have a very good reason for needing to really delete their files or use a file shredder. These reasons can include:
- Personal files that could be incriminating or simply shouldn’t be publicized due to their private nature.
- Personal files containing your financial information or key identity markers that could be used to steal your identity.
- Business files that are legally required to be deleted in a high-quality way because of privacy and security regulations.
- Other business files that, even if they aren’t initially a legal liability, could lead to angry customers who become lost business, or potential lawsuits if the data breach is serious enough.
More of our lives that were previously “secure” as paper files are becoming digital files, which means the possibilities for data breaches of the above information have gone up. Add to that the growing sophistication of many hackers and their varied forms of cyber attacks, and it is no wonder that many people are looking to search engines and trying to find “free document deletion software” or other similar queries.
But how safe is a free file shredder? While there may be functional “free digital file shredder” applications out there, many consumers don’t know which applications to trust and may have a sneaking suspicion that some of these file shredder applications are less than secure. In reality, many of the free and cheap versions of this kind of deletion software are actually insecure to the point where they open up your computer to the potential for hacking or cyber-attacks. Often, these hacking experiences are frustrating, scary, and result in a lot more damage than simply paying for a reputable file deletion software. That’s why being aware of the dangers of a free file shredder is important.
When The Deletion Matters
Certainly, there are deleted items that no one is going to be eager to recover, including many of our own personal files. However, if you have responsibilities in a business for removing digital files, you’ll realize quickly that your choices for how to delete files actually impact your compliance. In many legal and healthcare fields, for instance, there may be reporting needs to show that you have disposed of any electronic documents containing sensitive client information in a way that cannot leave them susceptible to data breaches or hacks.
You don’t want to find yourself in the frustrating position of being asked to justify the choices you and your team made when it comes to data security. Until you experience a breach, it may feel like your system was sturdy enough, through using the computer’s trash function, emptying the trash, and then slowly overwriting the hard drive over time perhaps. If you feel like you need to do a little more due diligence, there are online software companies ready to prey on your worries that you haven’t fully protected the sensitive information that lies in those deleted files.
Your IT or cybersecurity team at your business will tell you that you tend to get what you pay for when it comes to software, especially if it is a quick download from the internet with little to no accountability for the results. One of the reasons that acts like HIPAA spell out what security measures are required is to keep companies from taking shortcuts that result in compromised data security.
If you are the unlucky one that has a data breach in spite of having purchased or downloaded an online deletion software or file shredder, you’re dealing with potential fines and loss of trust from your clients, on whom you rely for future business. This is a major reason why you don’t want to rely on a bargain-basement file shredder. Downloading a file shredder application of unknown origin from the internet is always risky, but it might be the opposite of what you want to do in some cases.
Why Would They Give File Shredder Software Away For Free?
We’ll start upfront saying that there is a positive trend in many computer software circles of open sourcing software that they believe makes computing better for everyone. That’s not what we’re talking about here: we’re talking about for-profit websites that offer a too-good-to-be-true file deletion and “shredding” software that they either charge very little for or give to you for free.
Some of these companies are not just sending you the computer application that you are expecting. They are sophisticated programmers and they can bundle multiple functions into a single program, where you will install and run a deletion program that may appear to be working. In the background, however, the program might be recording your keystrokes to compromise passwords, or it may be stealing the very same files that you thought it would delete! When you aren’t versed in code, it is hard to verify whether a program contains any malware, which refers to many kinds of programs and computer code that is intended to breach your computer’s security.
This alone is a good reason not to rely on a free file shredder, especially if it isn’t one that is vouched for by a trusted computer expert in your company or field. However, even reputable programs may not do as thorough of a job as you need them to do.
“Deleted” is Not Shredded, and Shredded is Not Erased
A file shredder that you find online clearly does not cut your documents into physical ribbons of paper, so what do these applications do differently than your recycle bin or desktop trash can?
File Shredders are aptly named, actually. The goal of this file shredder software is to destroy any data they find in their target files and folders by rewriting it all with randomized binary code, just 0’s and 1’s with no order behind them. This means that, on an incredibly tiny-detail level, the file is unreadably scrambled, like a pile of shredded paper. On a hard drive, this overwriting process will eventually happen to most elements of deleted files as your hard drive searches for space and writes new files over old, deleted ones. However, a file shredder does this proactively on demand, rather than waiting.
That’s a good step, to be sure, when the file shredder is reputable and has a very good track record of overwriting accurately and completing the process. However, these file shredder programs don’t always succeed; if there is a glitch in power or your internet connection, perhaps, you could accidentally pause the overwriting process and think it was already complete.
Truly professional document erasure is a further level of security, and it is imperative to get to the level of data erasure if you aim for true data sanitization such that you can verify to a legal authority that you’ve protected your client data. Document erasure performs a verification step that the run-of-the-mill shredder will not do, where it checks to ensure that there is no readable data left in the file and actually creates a report that cannot be hacked or harmed to prove that the data removal has truly been achieved.
Don’t Download That Free File Shredder: Buy The Shred Cube
We here at Shred Cube believe in giving you options and generating the kind of data security that helps you confidently move forward, whether you want your personal files clearly eliminated or are protecting a business from hackers and other data thieves.
We created the world’s first USB data and file shredder, which completes the task of overwriting the target files and then goes the extra mile. When you plug the Shred Cube in, you can drag-and-drop files to be permanently deleted in a way that cannot be recovered. If you worry that you’ll accidentally use this powerful application on files that you need to retain, you can simply eject the Shred Cube and feel confident that you aren’t accidentally going to lose files.
Unlike free software on the internet, we’re clear with you about our data security background, the fact that data shredding takes time so you may have to wait a few minutes, and the fact that we sell our application in external form for a reason. We don’t allow downloads from the internet to create a log of your choices within the application, but instead we truly erase your files without any kind of record of doing so.
Even people who aren’t worried about their data security can benefit from the Shred Cube, since it can help free up space on your hard drive that can lead to better, faster speeds for your computer. Even better, we’re an affordable option, since we don’t charge a subscription fee, just our reasonable one-time cost for the Shred Cube which you can use over and over.
Shred Cube wants to be the secure way that you delete files without a trace. You don’t want to wonder whether your computer is exposed to hackers, and the only way to rest assured that your files are actually deleted and your computer remains secure is by using Shred Cube.