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Computer Forensics: Examining the Effectiveness of File Deletion



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Journal of Information Systems Security
Volume 7, Number 3 (2011)
Pages 3349
ISSN 1551-0123 (Print)
ISSN 1551-0808 (Online)
Mark B. Schmidt — St. Cloud State University, USA
Michael J. Condon — St. Cloud State University, USA
Information Institute Publishing, Washington DC, USA




Computer forensics is the process of analyzing and recovering deleted or hidden data from various electronic devices. Often the target device is a computer hard drive and in many cases the evidence recovered is utilized in criminal or civil court cases. Many times data is intentionally deleted or manipulated in hopes to destroy potential evidence which could be used against a suspect. Other times, the safe destruction or redistribution of used hardware is at issue. The dilemma of how to safely protect confidential and personal data is of paramount importance. Formatting, or preparing a digital storage medium for use is often a method employed to “remove” such data.

This paper describes an experiment that puts the effectiveness of formatting a drive and file deletion into question. In this experiment different ways of “erasing” files/a hard drive were examined. First common formatting techniques were identified and then applied to a hard drive with several files on it. Research was conducted starting with the most basic, and common process and progressed by increasing the robustness and iterations of deletion techniques. The results help to evaluate the techniques in order to help ensure that a digital source is erased and private information will not be unknowingly distributed along with used hard drives.




Deleted Files, Data Recovery, Computer Forensics, FTK, Forensics Toolkit, EASEUS




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