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Securely Erasing/Shredding emails

Community Veteran
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Registered: 06-11-2007

Securely Erasing/Shredding emails

Is it possible to securely erase or shred emails, to the  DoD standard using 7 passes?
I have looked at a number of Erase programs, that will handle "normal" files, but cannot find one that will do the same secure deletion/shredding to emails, from within the email platform.
9 REPLIES
MJN
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Re: Securely Erasing/Shredding emails

What do you mean by 'from within the e-mail platform'? Webmail and/or Plusnet's backend storage? If so, no, you can only click 'Delete' and how much actually gets deleted off their disk is down to them and they are highly unlikely to erase it to the level you are talking about. Indeed, some platforms such as Google don't delete it at all - they just remove it from your view of the mailbox!
If you are talking about e-mails held on your own computer then yes, they can be securely erased using the same tools as any other file. However, note that in the case of e-mails that have travelled across 3rd party networks they could still exist 'out there' despite what you subsequently decide to do with your copy.
Mathew
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Re: Securely Erasing/Shredding emails

Yes, You are right... on my own HDD.... 
I have got Eraser and also File Shredder, but neither of these seem to be able to delete/shred  emails.... from my "in box" or whatever folder ...
Perhaps I have to look somewhere else on the computer to find them, to delete from there?
MJN
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Re: Securely Erasing/Shredding emails

Gotcha. Yes, you would indeed need to find out where the e-mail messages are actually stored and delete them at source. If you post what client you're using I'm sure someone can advise.
Mathew
IanSn
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Re: Securely Erasing/Shredding emails

Inbox emails are usually stored as a single file somewhere which the email client reads? No shredder I'm aware of will be able to interpret that file and delete individual emails from it.
You'd have to backup the whole contents of your Inbox somewhere else and then shred the email client's Inbox file (containing all your Inbox emails, from where-ever its kept, you'd have to find it).
MJN
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Re: Securely Erasing/Shredding emails

Ah, yes, that's a good point. I'd forgotten that many clients still use a single-file-for-all-messages mbox style approach. A quick search suggests Thunderbird plans to move to maildir (each message stored in its own file) eventually but no dates; the Windows family of clients probably never will! I no longer use a standalone client however I used to use KMail and that used maildir storage hence you'd be able to delete specific messages at the file level.
I think this might be one of those occasions where it may not be worth the effort because whatever it is you are trying to achieve may well be undermined by the fact that you'd only ever be deleting your own copy - any copies held elsewhere would continue to exist whether they be held by the sender, recipient or one of the many transit carriers inbetween.
Mathew
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Re: Securely Erasing/Shredding emails

Using Thunderbird.... updated. to current level...
Hmm.. yes... I understand about emails being on other servers and source.... however, I just wanted to get rid of some on my hdd, so anyone peering in, would not be aware of them , unless they specifically looking for one (or more) that they know have been sent or received on my HDD>..
Similar to shredding my phone bill... electric bill... if you follow me ....
IanSn
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Re: Securely Erasing/Shredding emails

Yes, in that case you'd have to find and shred the Inbox file that Thunderbird uses - making sure you've backed up everything first.
Can't remember where this is, or what its called. Its been a while since I used Thunderbird.
But remember System Restore! All your old stuff is also backed up by Windows!
wisty
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Re: Securely Erasing/Shredding emails

Don't know the specifics for Thunderbird, but once deleted and the wastebasket is emptied, then whoever wants to access them would need some sort of programme that could attack the inbox at message level - that's almost as tricky as erasing them at that level. If you then compact the database within Thunderbird then the chances are Thunderbird itself will overwrite the mails to recover the space.
If you really want to do it as thoroughly as possible, then can I suggest the following. Caveat I have not tested this, but as the ultimate mechanism
1 Make a backup copy of the current Thunderbird Data structures (just in case!)
2  Erase the mails within Thunderbird (that gets them out of sight)
3  Compact the folders within Thunderbird from which you erased the messages (that gets them removed from/overwritten in Thunderbird's files)
4  Outside Thunderbird create a backup copy of of the compacted Thunderbird data structure (without the e-mails)
5 Delete and shred to whatever standard the Thunderbird data structure (gets rid of any residual info).
6  Shred all spare space on the disk (ditto in any disk space Thunderbird has relinquished to the free pool).
7 Restore the Thunderbird backup made at step 4.
8  Test Thunderbird works OK - thoroughly.
9 Delete and shred the backups made at step 1
After step 3 I don't think anyone will be able to get at the mail without considerable skill and effort. Certainly not by simply peering in. By step 9 I don't think anyone (outside of very professional (£££££) recovery services or the spooks) will be able to see those mails. And the latter would find it much easier to go to  your ISP.
System restore supposedly doesn't save or restore files in My Documents where I think Thunderbird keeps user files.
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Re: Securely Erasing/Shredding emails

Oo er. ... Missus.  Shocked  that is some work to destroy a couple of emails... thought it would be much easier than that.... just assumed there would be some simple method as in using an ordinary file shredding prog...
I think that deleting and compacting might be sufficient....  funny, I always thought that compacting was a was a way of reducing the file size, whilst keeping the email in its original form, just to save space.... Must admit.. I don`t think I have ever tried to restore a deleted and compacted email... so
Anyway... thank you all for your input... certainly has opened my eyes a bit... much appreciated... PN Forum Members are THE best !..  Wink