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Verbiage: Destroying data from hard drives and CDs

Chacham (981) writes | more than 10 years ago

User Journal 4

Completely destroying a hard drive is hard. For the average person to destroy it, where another cannot come along and get some of the data is nearly impossible, or at least not feasible. So, those who are afraid of people getting at their data, wipe it. Or rewrite to it to push away most people. The amount of effort put in is the amount of deterence one wants. As one person told me, one cannot keep the dedicated away, but one can at least deter everyone else.

Completely destroying a hard drive is hard. For the average person to destroy it, where another cannot come along and get some of the data is nearly impossible, or at least not feasible. So, those who are afraid of people getting at their data, wipe it. Or rewrite to it to push away most people. The amount of effort put in is the amount of deterence one wants. As one person told me, one cannot keep the dedicated away, but one can at least deter everyone else.

Compact discs are another matter, they can be easily destroyed. At first i tried burning them. That is, to hold it over a match or a candle. While that did work, it took a while to be noticeable. And then there's the writing on the other side. That was hard to get off even with burning. Last night, however, i found another method. It's a two-step method. The first is the fun thing of putting it in the microwave for a few seconds. Nice show, bad smell, but five seconds later the CD is toast. Step two, is then to scratch off the data. The writing, the label, and the data layer just flake away with ease. Perhaps for the truly paranoid the flakes should be burned, but it is seemingly doubtful that that is really needed. My only wonder is, if there is any residue left on the plastic disc.

No, there is no purpose. But pretending there is one make it a lot more fun. :)

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4 comments

Destroying real drives (1)

SiliconJesus (1407) | more than 10 years ago | (#6879216)

I work at a datacenter where we have access to highly sensitive data on some of the client boxes we host. If one of them was to fail a harddrive, we're to run Solaris' format -> analyze -> purge on them 7 times, then throw the disk on a magnetic 'cannon' for lack of a better term to totally frag it, then shred the drive in a machine that resembles a paper shredder on steroids, able of chewing through the metal of the drives.

The shreds are then handed off to an agent of the government, and I'm guessing they probably do something else to the drive before disposing of the slag that's left over. Sadly, we also have to do the same to RAM and CPU's due to the volitle memory capacity of the systems. Apparently, you can pull information off of a DIMM years after its been unplugged due to the magnetic 'signature' left on the hardware.

Re:Destroying real drives (1)

Cyberdyne (104305) | more than 10 years ago | (#6879487)

If one of them was to fail a harddrive, we're to run Solaris' format -> analyze -> purge on them 7 times,

Unfortunately, on modern drives, the firmware transparently remaps bad sectors without the host OS knowing about it. So, when Solaris (and you) believe the whole disk has been wiped 7 times, in reality there's a chunk of disk left totally untouched...

then throw the disk on a magnetic 'cannon' for lack of a better term to totally frag it,

... until this bit ;-)

then shred the drive in a machine that resembles a paper shredder on steroids, able of chewing through the metal of the drives.

Also helpful, although with modern data density, even a small fragment could contain useful data...

Rather than format/analyze/purge, overwriting with specific bit patterns does a better job. Of course, for most material, simply overwriting the data is enough. It's all about the "threat model": are you trying to keep the school's exam paper secret from the students until after they sit it? Or keep F-117 design schematics safe from marauding KGB-type people? You could need anything from keeping the disk in a locked room for the semester, to your approach of electronically trashing the disk, then degaussing it, then physically shredding it; if it's really sensitive, the DoD probably then melt the pieces you give them, and bury the remains somewhere.

I'm sceptical about the data recovery from DIMMs, especially these days; on modern RAM, the amount of energy involved is heading for the "couple of electrons" mark. After a couple of years, those electrons will all be long gone... (OTOH, on older RAM it's quite possible: much more energy involved.)

Re:Destroying real drives (1)

Chacham (981) | more than 10 years ago | (#6880171)

Wow. Wouldn't just smelting it be easier and effective? Just find wherever the terminator melted himself, and toss them in there. :)

For the truly paranoid... (1)

Pirogoeth (662083) | more than 10 years ago | (#6879402)

...there's always drive slagging [eecue.com] ...
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