Wally Bayola, as everyone knows by now, is a comedian who has become more famous for his video sex scandal than his comedic career.
His story from what I gathered was typical as far as scandals go. He made a sex video with someone and saved it on his laptop for his enjoyment later. He then sold this laptop after deleting the video (or so he thought), to the girl he made the video with. She then either sold it or had it repaired at a repair shop where the nosy technicians decided to share it with the world.
While we cannot undo all that, I can find at least a few instances in that sequence of events where Wally could have either kept the video from prying eyes while the laptop was still in his possession or at least deleted it completely when he decided to sell it. Here they are.
First, recognize that Windows doesn’t delete a file immediately just because you pressed ‘Delete’ (Wally was using a Windows laptop, but this applies to Mac and Linux as well).
The file still resides on your computer in the ‘Recycle Bin’ in Wally’s case. Why does Windows do that? So that you can retrieve a file if you accidentally pressed delete, or at least give you a second chance at getting it back if it turns out you still need it. Obviously a useful feature, but in Wally’s case it meant a drastic change in his career.
Tip #1: Use SHIFT+DEL instead of just DEL.
To make Windows skip the Recycle Bin and DIRECTLY delete a file instead, use SHIFT+DEL (hold the Shift button then press Del), instead of just delete. You can tell Windows will do this by the alert message it will show you for example:
Just pressing Del will make it ask ‘Are you sure you want to move this file to the Recycle Bin?‘
But pressing Shift+Del will make it ask ‘Are you sure you want to permanently delete this file?‘
Choosing this option will make Windows SKIP the Recycle Bin and delete the file directly. Obviously, ONLY DO THIS IF YOU REALLY WANT IT DELETED, because once you press yes, you won’t be able to get it back!
Tip #2: Archive the File.
WinRAR is the absolute best archiving and compressing software there is for Windows hands down. I’ve been using this for more than a decade, and is one of the few software well worth the ($29.00) license imho.
Once installed, you just need to right click and ‘add to archive’ to turn it into a .rar file. Once it is a .rar file, you can then add a password to it to open.
Pro: You can rename the file into anything you want, and no one will know if it is a sex video or a bunch of work related documents. WinRAR is also useful for many reasons, including archiving several files and directories at one time, splicing apart large files so you can send smaller parts via email for joining them later, etc.
Con: The problem with this method is that you have to de-archive (aka unzip) the file if you want to view it, which can take up to a minute depending on the size of the file. That means if Wally is in the mood I’m sure de archiving a file is the last on the list of things he wants to do at that time.
An alternative is to use encryption software such as Folder Lock or Protected Folder, which costs $40.00 and $20.00 respectively. There’s also an open source (and yes, free) alternative called Trucrypt. These promise that you need only enter your password and voila, instant access to your files. I haven’t tried these (I’ve never had to protect a file that important), but these are options nonetheless.
Tip #3: Misdirection by renaming or changing the format.
It’s logical to assume that you have something to hide if you password protect or encrypt a file. Once you do this, a potential hacker’s interest will be even more piqued compared to when you didn’t use these software at all. Conversely, it stands to reason as well that if your computer looks as plain jane boring as possible, then Mr. Nosy Technician will get bored and look elsewhere.
So as an alternative to that, consider these two. First, rename your file. Instead of ‘Wally_and_Yosh_doing_it.mov‘, you can maybe try ‘salesforecast.mov‘ or ‘letitgo_disco_version.mov‘, and it will hopefully get less attention.
The second trick is to change the file format into for example, .csv or .txt. I like this trick because when clicked it will try to run the application associated with the file, but since it’s not made to run in that format, it will produce an error message and hopefully Mr. nosy technician will look away. Once you want to view it again all you have to do is rename it back to its original format and it will play like usual.
The Con to this technique is that anyone who sees that message might decide to just delete the file thinking its corrupt or if someone opens it via text editor and types in random letters it won’t run ok anymore even if you return it to its original format (either of which which are still ok since they still won’t see your sex video). But other than those somewhat remote instances I can’t think of anything wrong with this strategy.
Tip #4: Wiping
The tips above tackled the things you should do while the computer is in your possession. Now we get to the part of what you do when you are relinquishing ownership of the computer.
One of the most important things anyone should do before you sell your computer is to wipe the hard drive clean. ‘Wiping’ is the action of virtually cleaning your computer’s hard disk of absolutely everything on it, including the operating system, in Wally’s case, even Windows itself. This is essentially the same as bringing your computer back to the state when it was brand new.
Wikihow has a good article explaining How To Wipe a computer in three ways, Low Security, High Security and Wiping A Mac. The Low Security option uses the Windows Startup Disk to format and re install Windows and for most of us that is a good enough option 99% of the time. If your computer is ‘branded’ it almost always comes with a startup disk and you can use that.
The High Security option recommends 3rd party industry standard software Active@Killdisk, to perform a low – level format that completely cleanses your computer of files you’ve deleted. There are other alternatives, like Dban and Wipefile which can do even more if you like.
Pro: Wiping is essential if you want absolutely nothing to remain if you’re going to pass your computer to another user. Whether you’re into recording videos of yourself or not you should do this just to make sure there aren’t any of your files left on it. Licensed software you’ve bought for example, should only be used by yourself and you should delete it when passing the computer on. Wiping will take care of all that in one stroke.
Con: Using 3rd party software can overwhelm newbies, but if this is really important to you – and it is in Wally’s case, you must take that extra step. A determined hacker can use tools to reconstruct files even after you thought you deleted them. Wiping takes care of that. Another Con is that wiping takes up to an hour for a 500gb. drive, so you should get some coffee and go away a while as it does its work.
Like I said whether you’re into self videos or not, learning these things are essential to keep personal stuff to yourself. Even if it’s just photos of you playing with your dog at the beach or your family having dinner, I bet it would still be unnerving to find someone suddenly using them on the ‘net.
Laws about those things are still murky and not to mention difficult to implement, so save yourself a ton of trouble and learn to secure your stuff.
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