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Data Destruction: Part One

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  • Data Destruction: Part One

    So I've got a stack of dead hard drives laying around, and I was thinking how cool would it be to use some bad ass degausser like the one made by SEM. Unfortunately theirs start at $4,000 and go up to $30,000! So that means I am stuck with the cheap-o models, the wand style degausser people use to erase VHS tapes.

    The problem is according to Kevin Mandia , whose company does forensics, the newer style IDE drives from about 2001 onward are basically immune. The density is so high, and the magnetic particles are aligned differently than on the old drives, that you can't erase the platters. So much for wrapping my servers with a bunch of wire and hooking it up to a power switch, aka "The Closer" style.

    So if sci-fi electo zappers are out, what does that leave me with? Physical destruction is in. A hammer just breaks the controller board up, but the sealed metal cases are tough!

    I think I'll have to settle for a power drill and a dumpster. Elegant and almost ludite by comparison. A hydraulic press would be more sexy, though.
    PGP Key:

  • #2
    DT, over at the NetStumbler Forums we've discussed a lot of, uh, creative means for HD destruction. Some of the members have even made short videos on different techniques. So far, the most memorable have been high-powered hand tools (shades of Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor) and my favorite, a propane forge.
    "If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to be a horrible warning." - Catherine Aird


    • #3
      There is always of course Drive Slagging: no more data and when you can cast your data into new and interesting things.


      • #4
        It would be interesting to see if a forensics company could recover data off the platters after being removed from my HD skirt.

        I hear melting them down to slag works nicely. The platters would probably make nice shiny targets for pointy hard pieces of metal propelled by a chemical reaction out of a cylindrical firing tube.


        Apparently, my suggestions were poor ones except for the one tacitus beat me to the punch on. :)

        Something you might consider, though it wouldn't be nearly as fun is donating your old drives to Free Geek for recycling. There's one up in Olympia now. Granted, the data won't be destroyed until the recycling process at Hallmark Refining, where they separate the metals, but (having worked at the Portland Free Geek), your drive will lie in a big anonymous pile of dead drives until the gaylord gets picked up and sent to the slagging graveyard (assuming the drives are truly dead). Not as satisfying, I admit, but it helps a local nonprofit out as they get a small amount of money for the materials recovered.

        For those that don't know, Free Geek takes donations of unwanted computery stuff, recycles what they can't use, build boxen out of the working stuff, puts linux on them and gives them out for free to people who donate 24 hours or more of their time. They also have an educational component and have helped alot of folks learn to use a computer for the first time, learn linux, hardware, etc. The one down in Portland is authorized to administer the LPI every few months. They also host community groups (often made up of some of the volunteers at FG) to build boxen and send them to needy places like Ecuador, Africa, etc.

        They are cool peoples and if you're near one and in need of used (low endish) hardware, check one out. They do sell some of the working equipment that they can't use for infrastructure or Freekboxes.

        Looks like there's also a Free Geek in Pennsylvania.
        Last edited by mfreeck; March 15, 2006, 10:51.


        • #5
          Previously methods were discussed in this thread, "Gone in 60 seconds"

          Without the 60 second limit, you could try a low-tech, backwoods/ghetto-style solution:
          Let's assume you have access to a private road, because doing this on a public road might get you into trouble.
          Let's assume you have a truck with a trailer hitch, or know how to connect something similar to the frame of a car.

          Screwdrivers (phillips, slotted, "torx" (star)) and wrenches (cressent, ratchet) necessary to disassemble the drive and remove the platters.
          Sheet of plywood
          Screws, drill, blocks of wood, drill bits.
          500 lbs of bricks, rocks or other weights

          countersink multiple screws from the bottom of the plywood up through the plywood into blocks of wood that will be mounted to the plywood. (more blocks is better.)

          1) Mount platters to the bottom of the plywood without countersunk mounts.
          2) Place plywood, platter side down.
          3) Attach ropes to the mounted blocks on the top of the plywood.
          4( Stack weights on top of the plywood.
          5) Attach ropes to vehicle.
          6) Drive down (private) road with platter-plywood "package" in tow for about 1 mile at 5-10 miles per hour.
          7) Check wear pattern and redistribute weight.
          Repeat steps 6 and 7 as desired, flipping platters as needed.

          Greater weight, and higher speeds will decrease time, but increase risk for accidental damage to people and property (like the road.)

          Technique name: "The road is my sander/shredder"

          Disclaimer: The above is provided for reading entertainment, and should not be considered a suggested method to data destruction of hard drive data. If it were actually attempted, there would be risk for improper disposal of heavy metals or hazardous materials, damage to the private road, risk for injury from the towed debris in motion, or being burned, or causing fires.

          This idea is probably not new-- anyone who has ever towed something and had it get drug behind the vehicle for any distance may have suggested this method.


          • #6
            I'm pretty sure that recovering data from a drive with a hole in it is not difficult.
            All you need to do is modify the hard drive controller to physically move the head out of the way of the hole, of course the data directly under it will be lost, but the rest of the drive will be fine.

            Shooting a drive with a gun is a good option since the platters shatter from the bullet (not just make hole, hard drive metal is extremely brittle). Theoretically you could still take those sharts and read the data off of them though.

            The only sure way to destroy a drive is to melt it. It's pretty tough to recover data off a puddle of molten metal. A normal propane blowtorch has enough heat to melt a platter, or you could get a forge and melt entire drives at a time.
            --- The fuck? Have you ever BEEN to Defcon?


            • #7
              astcell brought us a method for preparing charcoal with liquid oxygen in this post, that could be repurposed to melting platters.


              MPEG movie:
              (They note this caused, "the grill to melt down and then almost completely vaporize.")


              • #8
                I like the big concepts here.. but if I could nail the platters to a board, that suggests I have already completely disassembled the drive. If I could do that I could use pliers to bend them, etc.

                I like the idea of shooting the drive, but that solution doesn't work in the apartment too well.

                I am also thinking that even a metal brillo pad scratching the surfaces would do the trick. I wonder how fast the platters oxidize? At what point do they stop functioning?
                PGP Key:


                • #9
                  Here are ways I have melted down hard drives in the past without making a crucible, since that is a pain:

                  - Campfire- Just make sure you get a good base of coals, then toss the hard drive in. After five minutes it will be melted, minus the steel parts. This method definitely isn't for eviromentalists or city dwellers though.

                  - Blowtorch- As Kallahar said, a normal torch does the job. It takes well under a minute when you aim it right at where the platters should be. Word of advice though, wear some protective eyewear and long sleeves. I learned that the hard way by getting hit by pieces of resistors. :)

                  - Thermite- Assuming you know a construction worker or a welder they both get boatloads of the stuff. Just don't do it on anything that can melt/burst aflame. I have a glass patio table that will never be the same. Use a very small amount too, because once it starts burning nothing is going to be able to stop it. It takes alot of heat to ignite, but those flint and magnesium fire starter kits from Walmart work really well (I've heard sparklers would work too, but haven't tried it myself).
                  The dude abides.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Xodia
                    Thermite- Assuming you know a construction worker or a welder they both get boatloads of the stuff.
                    even if you don't have friends with connections, from what i understand, thermite consists of powered iron oxide (essentially, powered rust from steel surfaces) and powered aluminum (how many people here know that the powder inside an Etch-A-Sketch is aluminum?) in roughly a three to one ratio (3x the amount, by weight, of aluminum as of iron). as others have pointed out, you'll need a good heat source to get it going and the hot slag it forms can be unpredictable... but that second concern can be alleviated via a ceramic flower pot. the ceramic often will withstand the heat pretty well, and if it has a drain hole in the bottom, that will allow a concentrated, predicatable stream of the slag to flow directly where you wish.

                    my question is... is thermite legal? is there a legal distinction between the commercial grade product and the homemade backyard fun?

                    [EDIT: minor fact corrections, etc. very helpful was this Wikipedia page that discusses the backyard experiment in detail. heh, i want to put on my widest butterfly-collar shirt and try this out like Mr. Wizard would have.]
                    Last edited by Deviant Ollam; March 15, 2006, 12:19.
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                    • #11
                      I know its kind of simple, maybe thats why its been overlooked. We all know one of the easyest ways to destroy CD is pop it in the microwave. Whats to stop you from filling a microwave up and running it for a couple of minutes. For safty reasons I would do it outside with a long extension cord.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by CP99
                        I know its kind of simple, maybe thats why its been overlooked. We all know one of the easyest ways to destroy CD is pop it in the microwave. Whats to stop you from filling a microwave up and running it for a couple of minutes. For safty reasons I would do it outside with a long extension cord.

                        Having tried this, it's highly not recommended for the health of the microwave or the health of the humans nearby.

                        It also does'nt work very well.

                        A sealed hard drive will reflect the microwaves before they even hit the platters, damaging the magnetron and the oven in general.

                        Now CD's on the other hand are very quickly and spectacularly destroyed in a microwave oven (again, safety says not to do it, but what the hell, you only live once)

                        What you really need is to get one of these:

                        Hmmm, Hey DT, this is starting to sound like the pre-requisits for a contest...
                        Never drink anything larger than your head!


                        • #13
                          The HDDDC (Hard Disk Drive Destruction Contest).
                          Thats sounds like it could be an interesting event.


                          • #14
                            I was thinking of all the Defcon events we perform and how many of them would kill a hard drive:

                            Shoot - hard drive is the target
                            Toxic BBQ - hard drive is baked
                            (unofficial) skydive - hard drive is tossed out of a plane
                            Dunk Tank - hard drive is submerged
                            Bev cooling contest - hard drive is frozen
                            Streaking - hard drive is rubbed by scene whorez
                            NAC - drive is basically electcrocuted

                            ...and the search goes on.


                            • #15
                              Whatever happened to overwriting the thing 50 times with random data?

                              Not as fun I guess...
                              45 5F E1 04 22 CA 29 C4 93 3F 95 05 2B 79 2A B0
                              45 5F E1 04 22 CA 29 C4 93 3F 95 05 2B 79 2A B1
                              [ redacted ]