When ‘Delete' Is Not Enough

Data Destruction in the Digital World

Nowadays, there are almost as many ways of destroying data as there are of creating and storing it. But before you fire up a data wipe program to delete those confidential files you want forever destroyed, consider the case of the ex-CEO of financial printing firm Bowne. He was sent to jail for possession of child pornography and for obstruction of justice, because he tried to eliminate the evidence, a violation of the Sarbanes-Oxley act.

Alerted to the fact that federal investigators were going to pay his company a visit, he used an aptly named software program, Evidence Eliminator, by Robin Hood Software, to delete two child-porn movies and 12,000 other files off his company-issued PC and laptop computers. Within days, he faced multiple charges. He eventually pled guilty to possession of child pornography and obstruction of justice, and in December 2006, was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison.

A less dramatic example of the caution necessary in data destruction is a section of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which requires accounting firms auditing public companies to retain relevant documents for seven years following an audit. Data delete tools can be effective in preventing identity theft and controversy, but they must be used properly and with due care. Having the right tools is only part of the solution; the right policies and procedures must also be in place, and they must be revisited on a regular basis to ensure they remain effective and applicable from department to department and across the organization.


John Livingston has served as Absolute Software's chairman and CEO since 1995, growing the company from its infancy to 135 employees in 2007. Absolute invented the computer tracking and loss control product category with the introduction of "Computrace" in 1994. Under Mr. Livingston's leadership, Absolute has evolved to offer a full range of business solutions encompassing physical, data and network security as well as IT asset management. Prior to taking the helm of Absolute, Mr. Livingston was a faculty member of the School of Business at the British Columbia Institute of Technology. He holds a Master's of Business Administration from the University of Calgary .