Getting Rid of Evidence and History: By now you’ve figured out that surface web software or surface browsers like Firefox and Chrome probably won’t do much to remove your browsing history, even if they do promise to scrub your device.
Some programs like CCleaner may be able to delete traces of files left by various browsers as well as other file formats. File Shredder, Eraser, and Zilla Data Nuker are also popular choices. The manual deletion software may be able to delete files and prevent recovery software from restoring them.
Some of these software programs can also delete related cookies, recycle bin files, memory dumps, fragments of files, log files and application data, and other tidbits. The registry cleaner included also corrects problems with Windows registry, and the missing file logs that can result from deleting an important file. This computer software is recommended if you’re going to sell your computer to someone else or if you have any other reason to delete files or browsing history.
However, a better way to ensure the complete removal of all stored files would be “wipe” the hard drive and get rid of all trails of said files. Remove all former data and operating system information by replacing each bit of data with blank data. This is the official plan of government agencies who have to dispose of sensitive information.
Remember to also delete wireless network keys or passphrases, network share passwords and another passwords for VPN or dial-up. Disabling the System Restore feature of Windows is also required.
The faster way would simply be to delete the entire hard drive, meaning it would need a new installation of an operating system to return to normal function. Programs like Disk Wipe can erase drive partitions but only if the drive is placed inside another computer. To destroy the main system disk of your PC you need a bootable disc or USB drive that can create a boot and then complete erase and format the drive’s partitions. [email protected] Kill Disk is program that can assist with wiping a hard drive.
Tablets and Smartphones
While each phone has an accessible “Clear History” feature in the settings, you may be rightfully paranoid about some evidence left behind. If you want to completely scrub your cell phone or tablet, running on an Android OS, you have to do something MORE than clearing history and even more than a
￼factory reset. Otherwise, your phone will still yield old photos, emails, messages and searches. A factory reset only deletes addresses of data; but it doesn’t overwrite the data.
The first step to destroying the memory of an Android unit is to encrypt the data. This option is built into the system and requires a PIN. Anyone that tries to recover info now will be stuck because they can’t decrypt it without a special key. While encrypting data, keep it plugged in because it will take considerable time. If you need help finding the option, it should be somewhere in the settings/lock and security menu. You may also want to encrypt the SD card.
This function was built with the intent of preventing thieves from stealing the phone and then using any valuable information on it. Bear in mind some phones or tablets may require a user name and password for the last Google account registered on the system. Not having any information may lock the phone entirely. Therefore, turn off lock on the security feature before starting.
The next step is to remove your Google account, which in accessible from the Accounts and Sync menu. Now you will actually perform the factory reset by accessing it from Settings / backup and reset.
After this, the phone is wiped and any leftover data that could still be on there will be encrypted and protected. If you still have doubts about it try overwriting the encrypted data with new information (such as large videos) and then doing another factory reset repeating the same steps.
When it comes to wiping an Apple product, understand that these iOS devices are hardware encrypted, which means it has better privacy protection than normal.
Sign out of Facetime, iMessage and iTunes. General reset resets all passcodes but to be safe choose “disable restrictions” and then “erase all contents and settings”. You will be prompted for your passcode and password, in order to turn off the locking feature. This process allows you to set up a new device. Unregistering your device can be done through the site at supportprofile.apple.com.
Be sure to delete additional information from your iCloud account and make sure you sign out before erasing the data. You can also delete your information remotely even if you don’t have the device anymore, by using iCloud and the “Find my iPhone” feature, which lets you erase it from the cloud. From the cloud you can also remove debit or credit card information. Deleting iCloud account information (like contacts, calendars and photo streams) is so effective Apple actually advises against it, suggesting that there’s no way to restore them.
ISP Logging (Getting Rid of Evidence and History)
There is one last agency to worry about and that’s your local ISP provider and this is very often the weakest link that gets users in trouble. ISP companies sell you out quickly so the best case scenario is to use anonymizing software and then count on the predictable practice of ISP providers purging their records.
There are no data retention laws in the U.S. specifying a certain time that companies must keep old records, however this could change in the near future as the U.S. may follow the example of Europe and introduce legislation requiring old records to date back to at least a year.
Most ISPs are not extremely supportive of government agencies in that they don’t make it a point to keep logs for an excessively long time. Some might state they delete the logs every two weeks; others may never share that information. Larger providers are a tad more cooperative, like Time Warner Cable who stores IP address logs up to six months, or Comcast for three months. Charter stores for up to a year while Cox stores for six months. Smartphone Internet providers may keep records for longer periods of time, up to one year, such as in the case of Qwest/Century, and AT&T. Verizon went above the standard and states they hold records up to 18 months.
Unfortunately for law breakers, these records would serve as evidence and a person wouldn’t be in the clear for the entire duration of that time period in which log records are kept.
We’ve mentioned a few things in passing that you might find on the darknet. But just what kind of horrors are we talking about? Perhaps not as horrific as you’ve heard…in the next chapter we’ll discuss some of what you might find on the darknet as well as a few of the more absurd myths.