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Let's say you have a small amount of information written down on a small amount of paper. What is a quick and easy way to destroy the information? I noticed scribbling over it isn't very effective but writing over it with random letters is. Is ripping up the paper really that secure?

Tools that can be used include anything you'd likely find at a desk, but a paper shredder isn't one of them. This question isn't asking how to make your own paper shredder.

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Ripping it up is as secure as the obfuscation you can apply to the task.
A shredder is actually not a very secure method, unless your total shredded quantity is high. Re-assembly is just a jigsaw puzzle & the puzzle pieces are all in the same box. Forensics experts are well-practised at this.

Let's say, just for example, you have a small 2" square post-it note with a phone number on it, which you wish to destroy.

If you tear it in half, each half contains not enough information to be useful to any 'spy', so let's take this further.

First tear it in half right across the numbers, so one half has the top of the numbers, the other has the bottom of the numbers.
Take one half & tear it into sections small enough that there's only one or two of your half numbers on each piece.
Walk round the office & drop pieces in different bins as you go.

That ought to be sufficient obfuscation for one half.

Put the other half in your pocket & take it home.
Repeat the same tear & redistribute as you did in the office; some bits in the regular trash, some in the recycle, some in the green compostibles bin, assuming you have all 3 types.
Alternatively, throw out a random ⅓ of the pieces each week for 3 weeks, into the same bin.

That ought to reduce the chances of finding & re-assembling all the pieces to as close to zero as possible.

You could, of course, first write random letters over it and scribble over that, which will increase the complexity still further.

This is a method I also use for expired credit cards...using scissors, of course.

Though the method is not 'quick' it requires very little effort overall.

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Eat it

If it's a small amount of paper, then eating it would be very effective.

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    Whilst this is going to be effective in the short-term; have you considered the consequences of doing it several times a day for the rest of your career? – Tetsujin Aug 27 '16 at 11:02
  • No, I haven't. The question also makes no mention of frequency. – James Aug 27 '16 at 20:59
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If you have a lighter or a match stick, burning it will be a good option. Off-course, it's better to burn it on a metal surface away from flammable substances. If you can't find metal surface, you can try to burn it by holding the paper's edge in hand. You can easily extinguish -- just by blowing air through your mouth -- this fire since it is a small paper.

On some papers, the writing will be visible even after burning. In such cases, it is best to crush the burnt paper to powder and throw it in dust bin. This method ensures that the paper doesn't even exist to read the content.

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I often use your idea of writing over the letters with other letters. But I always write over every letter with an "8" and then an "X". That makes every letter look like exactly the same weird figure.

enter image description here

(I know we're talking about manually-written letters, but I don't have a scanner near me so I just made the picture in MS Paint.)

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Flush it

Flushing it down the toilet would also work, if it is small enough not to clog anything.

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I sometimes find scraps of paper around the house on which I either wrote down or printed out sensitive information in a hurry before throwing it off on some obscure table and forgetting about it.

Here's how I destroy said information.

For Pens

Since I write most things in gel pen, I have found isopropyl alcohol or any form of water to be the best solvent for obfuscating information. This also helps soften the paper for tearing.

Simply wet the paper with either solvent of choice to cause the ink to dissolve and spread over the paper. If water doesn't work, use the isopropyl.

For Pencil

Lightly dab some water on your eraser and rub vigorously on the pencil tracing you want destroyed. This causes the paper to roll up into tiny wet cylinders that are effectively impossible to unravel.

Do bear in mind that this method does destroy the paper quite effectively as well.

For Print

One of my favourite (but not very environmentally friendly) method of getting rid of printed information is by printing a bunch of random garbled data over it.

Take a plain text document for example. Print over the text document in alternating directions a couple of times and it's almost effectively unintelligible.

Alternatively, the more environmentally friendly method is to use the pencil method. It's not as effective (printed text is not as fine as pencil traces), but it gets the job done most of the time.


Most of these methods were actually discovered by the best possible way to destroy something - catastrophic accidents - on some rather important documents as well, if I might add.

The very reason that these methods can be easily applied to anyone, anywhere in the world, is because such accidents are ubiquitous, and the materials required to cause them are usually quite abundant and common.

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Here's what I typically do, scribble over it, using a black permanent marker - if you have one. If you do not have a black marker, use a pen with the same color of ink and repeatedly write the number eight over the words. Once this is done, cut it into strips, then cut those strips into small diamonds by cutting across the them diagonally.

Also, as mentioned above, you can use rubbing alcohol on certain types of ink, I believe water or acetone would also be effective. If the information is written in pencil then you could likely just erase it and then - for good measure - cut it up as described above. Also as mentioned, you could eat the paper; however, I don't think that I would recommend that. Although it would work beautifully, you really don't want to ingest ink, nor do you know what could have been used on that paper during manufacturing.

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I will tell u something that you can test yourself.If you tear off the paper and eat it,you are still at the risk of exposing your information.

Demo:take a paper n write on it,tear it off....now take a blank paper,burn it and spread the carbon on the page below the one you were writing.The impressions left by your writing will reveal each and every word written by you.So it's not a safe idea.

Just scribble the text or overwrite.

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Just scribble the letter eight over and over in different directions over the text. Then you can just write gibberish, or simply scratch it out. I recommend using the same substance as the text. For example, if the text is written in pen, use a pen. If it is written in pencil, use a pencil. If the text is printed, just use a pen. Best resembles the ink.

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