How to secure your hard drive.
Aside from the topics of securing your communications and your online travels from prying eyes, you need to consider the security of your compute at home and work.
Computers do get hacked. Computers do get stolen. Do you have information on your computer that you really don't want falling into someone else hands? Do you have copies of sensitive encryption keys used in your communications saved as plain text files on your computer?
If you are a political dissident in a third world nation...or even at home ( you are allowed to dissident but not to cause harm or commit illegal acts ). Perhaps you are a legitimate whistle blower who needs to protect their jobs and reputations. You may be a journalist with confidential informants or contacts in countries where those contacts lives could be at risk if their identity were known. What ever the reason you may have information that you must secure.
You have to consider two things. One is to be sure data is not lost in the event of a disk failure, theft or other catastrophe. BACK UP OFTEN and keep the backup drive in a separate location. Second is to Encrypt sensitive data.
Backups can be online or to an external media. Using both is a good idea. While online backups are encrypted, it is best to make sure the files you are backing up are already encrypted before backing them up.
One of the best programs, bar none, for encrypting data on your hard drive, a CD or Flash drive or smart phone is called TrueCrypt. It is free open source and with a sufficiently convoluted and lengthy password, probably unbreakable even using the NSA's super computer. Get it HERE FREE. This program will allow you to encrypt an entier drive, individual files, files within other files, hidden files, even an encrypted bootable drive. If the program itself is only run from external media, the very existance of encrypted data cannot be shown.
There are numerous other hazards you can encounter online even if using a VPN or other security measures. Being anonymous does not protect your computer from downloading a virus, malware or spyware. Always be sure to run several layers of protection against threats that may find their way onto your computer.
When you send a file to the trash bin, it is NOT gone! The only thing you are erasing is the index your computer used to quickly access that file. The entire file remains intact at least the space it was using has been over written by new files a number of times. If it is not critical don't worry about it. It will vanish on its own over time. But if you need to eliminate any data that poses a security risk, you need to use one of several free programs that will wipe that file clean with a system used by the US Government for that purpose. Never sell or donate a computer until you have security wiped all files from your drive. The two programs you should have are Eraser and CCleaner which can be found on our resource page.