Michael Kassner placed an article about Surveillance Self-Defense in the TechRepublic, where he gives brief outline of the SSD website. Though some can endlessly brood over the grounds for the project foundation, for me one is clear that this site can be very much helpful to put all principal computer security guidelines together and close the gaps in your own security.
There are plenty of excellent knowledge nuggets in section Defensive Technology which includes, Emails, Web Browsers (in one of my previous posts I also wrote about threats posed by switched-on AutoComplete), IMs, File and Disk Encryption… At this points I’d focus your attention at the File and Disk Encryption section which starts with:
Modern operating systems allow you to use a system of accounts and passwords to limit access to data on a computer. This may be useful when adversaries have casual passing access to your machine, but those accounts and passwords will not protect your data if your computer is stolen or seized — or if the adversaries have more than a minute or two alone with your computer. There are many ways (such as plugging your hard disk into another computer, or booting another operating system using a CD or USB key) that would allow files to be read off the disk. Even deleted files may be recoverable.
As Google says, it’s not the usual Yada Yada – Elcomsoft System Recovery allows getting access to any locked Windows account and Advanced EFS Data Recovery is able to recover files protected with EFS (Encrypting File System), even deleted ones, even after disk reformatting – of course, if some data (such as file encryption attributes and encryption keys) is still there, i.e. has not been overwritten with the other files. Which is really-really helpful for forensics and your personal needs, but we should never overlook adversaries’ intentions. So, in the end, only physical access matters. The Center for Information Technology Policy gives a video on how adversaries can get the data from stolen idle or recently switched off laptop.
Finally, for dessert, you are welcome to check your knowledge on using proper passwords.