Bits & P.C.s: E-mail deletion and security

Bits & P.C.s: E-mail deletion and security

By Richard Heller

I recently received the following message regarding e-mails and e-mail security.

How does one permanently delete their e-mail history? If you connect to your e-mail account through the ISP and delete everything, is it gone? Or can one retrieve the information from the hard drive on the computer?

This not an easy question to answer. Depending on your Internet provider and/or e-mail account, you may be able to leave your messages on their server, and they do not get downloaded to your computer—you are just

viewing them. After a certain length of time, the mail provider may delete the old messages.

You may also download the messages to your computer and leave them on the server; you’d have to delete them from the server in both of these instances.

The third way would have you downloading the messages to your computer, and they would be removed from the server. In this case, you would use the delete feature in the mail reader, empty the deleted message folder, and then empty the recycle bin.

Unless you are using a utility that overwrites the deleted file with random characters, it would be possible for the messages (or parts of) to be viewed using programs such as Norton Utilities. Also, I don’t know how the ISP handles e-mail; they may archive it, and they may be able to retrieve it if ordered by the court.

The last paragraph above is true about anything that is on your computer. The Web sites that you visit all place files containing photos, text, cookies, and anything that appears on the screen is stored until something removes it. If you accidentally visit a porn site, or an ad for such a site pops-up, a copy is saved in the Temporary Internet Files folder in the Windows directory. This is a special directory that Windows hides and protects and requires a special utility program to clean it out. Programs such as Clean Sweep, Norton Internet Security, and System Suite all have the means to remove these files but, again, unless you use another utility program to remove all traces of the file, it can be retrieved.

Programs such as Evidence Eliminator and Clean Disk Security will remove the file completely so it can’t be recovered. Most of these programs remove the file name from the directory entry on the hard drive, then

overwrite the area on the disk where the file was stored with random characters. The program may repeat this process a number of times until no trace of the file is found. It also searches and removes any trace of the deleted filename from any other location where reference to it may be found.

A few weeks ago, I reported that DirectTV had discontinued its DSL service. There is now a rumor that the satellite Internet service may soon be history as well. They only have about 160,000 subscribers that are paying $60-$100 monthly for Internet access. If this shutdown happens, it will not affect your satellite television service.

Richard Heller is an independent computer specialist who specializes in repairs, installation, upgrades, technical support, Internet sharing, data recovery and diagnostics. If you have any computer or service-related questions, please send them to The Rock River Times or e-mail

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!