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"Smash Your Hard Drive" To Fight Identity Theft 527

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the i-can-get-behind-that dept.
Will Do This For Free writes "BBC News has a story about the only fireproof way of safeguarding your personal information when dumping your old computer: 'It sounds extreme, but the only way to be 100% safe is to smash your hard drive into smithereens. [...] The more thoroughly the better.' This sounds like so much fun that I almost feel like doing it right now. Let me press Submit Story first."
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"Smash Your Hard Drive" To Fight Identity Theft

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  • by thetorpedodog (750359) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @09:48AM (#26370929) Homepage
    So...I don't want my data to somehow magically be restored when I throw an old hard disk into a fire? Where can I read more about this amazing data-recovery technology?
    • by kcelery (410487) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @10:06AM (#26371127)

      Throwing into fire is not enough, the magnetic domain on the platter is still there for highly technical team to retrieve. You have to melt the hard disk into liquid and stir thoroughly.

      • by bytethese (1372715) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @10:10AM (#26371181)
        I like my hard disk shaken, not stirred...
        • by Forge (2456) <kevinforge@noSpaM.gmail.com> on Thursday January 08, 2009 @10:41AM (#26371589) Homepage Journal
          I read years ago (and I'm sure it was made up) of a memo sent out to IT managers in the DOD (United States Department Of Defense). It went.
          To properly dispose of hard drives which may contain Top secret information is a 5 step process to be performed in the order specified and by competent engineers.

          1. Perform a triple overwrite security erase on the entire disk.
          2. Use a bulk degausser (AKA a powerful electro magnet).
          3. Crush the drive under a roller or tank tracks, whichever is more convenient.
          4. Melt the scrap into slag.
          5. Bury that Slag in a toxic waste dump to deter any attempts at data recovery.

          That's not exactly how it went but I think this is pretty close. Can anyone find the original?
          • by penguinboy (35085) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @10:53AM (#26371777)
            There's no original because that's not the spec.

            The real spec is DoD 5220.22-M, available at http://www.dtic.mil/whs/directives/corres/html/522022m.htm [dtic.mil].
            • by Anonymous Coward

              There's no original because that's not the spec.

              The real spec is DoD 5220.22-M, available at http://www.dtic.mil/whs/directives/corres/html/522022m.htm [dtic.mil].

              The DoD standard has been superceded by NIST Special Publication 800-88:

              http://csrc.nist.gov/publications/nistpubs/800-88/NISTSP800-88_rev1.pdf
              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Data_remanence

            • Back in the 1980s and early 90s, when I was working as a tool for the military-industrial complex, I ran a VAX lab that processed classified information. I forget which DoD standard we followed (it was equivalent to Army 380-380), but I got to write our declassification processes and my successor at the job had the fun of implementing them. The basic choices were

              • Officially NSA-certified overwrite software (Didn't exist for our platform.)
              • NSA-certified Big Fscking Magnet (Not near *my* equipment, thank y
          • by RandoX (828285) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @10:57AM (#26371835)

            About a decade ago, our artillery unit did do "rollovers" on hard drives for the intel unit. The drives, although already drilled through, were stored in a safe and ecsorted by Military Police. After we ran them over, the pieces went back into the safe. After the drilling and crushing, the drives were to be put into a 55 gallon barrel (along with wood or paper), doused in fuel, and burnt for a minimum of 30 minutes.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 08, 2009 @10:18AM (#26371289)

        The platters don't have to be melted, they only need to be heated to the Curie point [wikipedia.org] to loose all their information. Of course, that would still take a pretty hot fire.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Retric (704075)

        Heating a destroys the magnetic domain's long before it melts. As density increases the ability to do data recovery when things go bad keeps decreasing.

      • No you don't. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mcgrew (92797) * on Thursday January 08, 2009 @11:50AM (#26372571) Homepage Journal

        Disassemble the drive and remove the platters. Take sandpaper and sand off the oxide. There's no way in hell any data will be recovered after that.

        Not everyone has access to a furnace hot anough to melt the whole thing.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by couchslug (175151)

          Don't forget to harvest the handy magnets if you bother to do it that way.

          Some hard disk platters are glass, so be careful!

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Gilmoure (18428)

          I built a kiln out of a trash can, ceramic fiber mat, and some venturi propane burners made from 3/4" pipe. I've fired to Cone 4 (2124ÂF - 1162ÂC) in it. Cost about $200 to make. Would be cool to get a crucible and melt down a drive or two. I have some old scsi stuff from the 90's...

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Verdatum (1257828)
          hm. I can't find the surface area of a HDD platter, but let's say that 1/3 of the radius of the disk is unwritable in the center. Supposedly, you can get as much as 500GB on a single 3.5'' platter. Now lets say you sand it with 120 grit sandpaper, so that you could rip off a chunk the size of a 120 grit grain of sand....By my math (which could be miserable) one single flake could contain as much as 248k of data, all perfectly recoverable via electron microscope. That's a lot of text! God...this sound l
      • by somersault (912633) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @12:08PM (#26372825) Homepage Journal

        Whoosh!

        The point was that they said this is a "fireproof" way of restoring your data - which is basically saying that throwing the hard drive into a fire would somehow recover the data.

        Foolproof would have been a better word to use; as in "even a fool could protect their data using this method".

      • You must cast it into the fires of Mount Doom! Only then will your data be safe!
    • Shoot It (Score:3, Informative)

      by maz2331 (1104901)

      Five shots from a .458 Winchester Magnum firing soft-points really wrecks a drive into smithereens. It's actually hard to find a spot on the platters that isn't either punched through or scratched to near-oblivion by tiny fragments bouncing around inside the thing. Really, they look almost sandblasted where not outright gone.

      And it is a lot of fun, too.

  • by Atriqus (826899) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @09:49AM (#26370935) Homepage
    ...It's the only way to be sure.
  • what about using acid?
  • by s31523 (926314) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @09:51AM (#26370945)
    I have a heavy duty magnet that when placed on the top of the drive makes the drive completely useless.
    I doubt anyone could recover data from it, as it is surely scrambled.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I have one of those, too. I keep mine on the side of my computer case.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by DigiShaman (671371)

      Yup, and every drive comes with two of them used for the voice coil actuator. Just be careful when handling them. I've had them both snap together and give me a blood blister.

    • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday January 08, 2009 @10:11AM (#26371205) Homepage Journal

      NO! It does NOT make it completely useless. Someone with a scanning-tunneling microscope could still retrieve portions of your data! The thing that makes this article retarded isn't the difficulty of permanently destroying data, which is best done with intense heat (as in, burn the disk to the point it melts) but the fact that no one cares about your identity OR your porn collection. Just zero the disk once and odds are that will be more than good enough for any of your personal data, unless you are the fucking president or something. Zero the disk or if you must, run a secure formatter, and put it on freecycle if it's too old to sell.

      • by dkf (304284) <donal.k.fellows@manchester.ac.uk> on Thursday January 08, 2009 @10:23AM (#26371341) Homepage

        Just zero the disk once and odds are that will be more than good enough for any of your personal data, unless you are the fucking president or something.

        "Can you guys recover my data?"
        "Yes we can!"

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by conureman (748753)

        TFA makes the point that for most of us, a wipe or a hammer job is adequate to deter the schmoogs. The web is full of various tests of redox reactions to destroy the platters, if your data is in a glowing puddle of molten aluminium, it's probably secure.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by dword (735428)
        If you work for a big company, chances are you are very interested in this article and it doesn't sound retarded at all. I was actually asked by one of my ex-employers for the best method to dispose of a hard-disk so that nobody could retrieve information from it, for good reasons.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by blitzkrieg3 (995849)

        but the fact that no one cares about your identity OR your porn collection. Just zero the disk once and odds are that will be more than good enough for any of your personal data, unless you are the fucking president or something.

        I agree completely. No one is going to bother with a few weeks of work taking apart the drive to get access to you're $371.39 bank account when they can spend 1 hour and simply find that the next disk in line is fully formatted and has all the information they need.

        The whole article is a little sensationalist and ridiculous to me. I'm surprised to see such shoddy reporting from the BBC.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by AntEater (16627)

      If you're really want to have fun, you should take the magnet out of the drive. Those things area amazing. I had a co-worker who pulled the magnets out a whole slew of retired 5" hard drives. You could hang incredible amounts of weight from those things. Very easy to smash your fingers between them too. Just don't do it on your employer's time.

      oh yeah, you could use that magnet to wipe the platter while you've got the drive open.

  • by Seakip18 (1106315) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @09:53AM (#26370971) Journal

    and just use dBan, Derrick's Boot and Nuke. [dban.org]

    Nothing beats an afternoon of watching dBan and a comfy chair. Beer or whisky optional.

  • Kindness (Score:5, Funny)

    by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @09:55AM (#26371001)

    You'll have to excuse me. I'm need to go protect my ex-wife from identity theft.

  • by thegoldenear (323630) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @09:55AM (#26371009) Homepage

    This recommendation from Which? magazine has incensed me today. They're reported as saying "It sounds extreme, but the only way to be 100% safe is to smash your hard drive into smithereens." [bbc.co.uk]. There's no need to do this if you use disk wiping software, which is probably even better than a hammer; as the BBC article points out. Darik's Boot And Nuke [dban.org] is perfect for this. It's environmentally criminal to be suggesting the best way to wipe a disk is to smash it.

    Pete Boyd

    • by Lumpy (12016) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @10:01AM (#26371067) Homepage

      Problem is that most people are way too stupid to understand how to use that, but they can understand smash.

      The funny part, 90% of those people that understand smash, will not smash it enough. I have recovered data from laptop hard drives that looked pretty smashed, but 45 minutes in my improvised clean room moving the platters to a different drive and I was able to read the contents.

      • Nice. I've not come across anyone transferring platters before. Presumably you use an identical drive with the same controller board?

        This is what I meant that disk wiping software will be more thorough than a hammer.

        But yeah, people aren't able to download an ISO and burn it to disc, then set their BIOS to boot from CD.

        • by Lumpy (12016) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @10:27AM (#26371403) Homepage

          It's really not that hard to transfer platters. and yes use an identical drive.

          a makeshift clean room is easy. run the shower in the bathroom for 15 minutes on the hottest setting and then shut it off and let the room cool down completely. the mist in the air will remove all dust as it falls to the ground. use a tyvek suit and cover your hair, face, hands and you're good to go.

      • by Chrisq (894406) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @10:07AM (#26371145)

        The funny part, 90% of those people that understand smash, will not smash it enough.

        Another 5% will enjoy it so much that they will do the same thing to their new computer, the TV and the next door neighbours car.

    • I think Darik's Boot And Nuke actually is better at preventing identity thief then smashing your drive. Ok less assume you are tossing an old drive say a 20GB You smash the drive into 100 pieces each piece has about 200mb on the average. Chances are if you really wanted that data you take the pieces and make a custom drive that can read the data off a fragment of disk. Yes it will be to much work for the casual id thief but it is still there. Fill with 1 then with 0 then randomly a few times any additiona

  • by Yoda2 (522522)
    We've been using an RBFH for years to destroy harddrives. Just make sure you have some eye protection.
  • I'm generally happy to drill a few holes through different parts of the platters and then just whack the whole thing a couple times with a hammer. Sure, someone with a the right equipment and a lot of time on their hands could potentially take the drive apart, and pull some data off the undamaged parts of the disk, but my data isn't worth the trouble.

    That being said, I've sometimes smashed them further just for the fun of it, and completely obliterating a drive is a lot harder than you'd originally think. S

  • Cool method (Score:3, Funny)

    by jez9999 (618189) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @09:56AM (#26371021) Homepage Journal

    "It sounds extreme, but the only way to be 100% safe is to smash your hard drive into smithereens."

    And I know of a great [tinypic.com] way to do that.

  • by blcamp (211756) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @09:58AM (#26371041) Homepage

    Smash An Identity Thief.

  • Because those smithereens contain environmentally harmful materials, they should be recycled - for instance at the vendor from whom a new hard drive is purchased.

    Or just RMA it.
    Dear Seagate, I've only had your drive a few weeks and it smash itself to smithereens.

  • Stupid (Score:2, Insightful)

    by binarylarry (1338699)

    Or you could, you know, overwrite the bits with new garbage data.

    At work, we've had dealings with data recovery labs and they've never, ever been able to retrieve anything useful.

  • My method (Score:2, Funny)

    by MiniMike (234881)

    I fill mine with concrete and drop them in the ocean. Stuffed inside an informant, of course.
    Nobody will be getting more information from either one.
    I am intrigued by the clever use of a hammer in the video, I may have to modify my method slightly.

  • Oh I dunno. I've found Windows vista renders most hardware inoperable. At least this state of the art piece of pc I've had under my desk runs slower than ever, now that it's got the latest/greatest os on it. You could bore identity thieves to death with transparent windows and shiny icons.
  • by smooth wombat (796938) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @10:03AM (#26371095) Homepage Journal

    His PC died due to dust accumulation (fried mobo, dead power supply, fused RAM) and he asked me what to do with his system. I told him the only thing he needed to worry about was his HD. Told him to drill a few holes in the drive, use a blowtorch in those holes if he still had one (he used to work in home remodeling), smash the drive with a hammer and put it in a bag with his used cat litter (they have two cats).

    If someone is desperate enough to want the information on his drive, they're going to have to work for it.

    • by thermian (1267986) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @10:17AM (#26371271)

      His PC died due to dust accumulation (fried mobo, dead power supply, fused RAM) and he asked me what to do with his system. I told him the only thing he needed to worry about was his HD. Told him to drill a few holes in the drive, use a blowtorch in those holes if he still had one (he used to work in home remodeling), smash the drive with a hammer and put it in a bag with his used cat litter (they have two cats).

      If someone is desperate enough to want the information on his drive, they're going to have to work for it.

      Well that depends, what breed of cat?

  • Shredder (Score:5, Interesting)

    by iCharles (242580) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @10:05AM (#26371125) Homepage
    I periodically contract with a company to dispose of old hardware for my company. The first time i talked to them, they mentioned they shredded old media. I assumed he meant floppies and tapes and the like. Given the nature of the material, it didn't seem that impressive, but certainly nice. When I got the estimate, I was a bit shocked--why was it so high? Then they explained--by "media," they meant hard drives. They sent me a PDF on the equipment. Hard drives are removed from machines, and placed on a conveyor belt. This fed the hard drive into the shredder. On the other end, bits of metal came out. I begged them to let me operate it--just for one or two drives. Damn lawyers!
  • by AngryNick (891056) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @10:06AM (#26371137) Homepage Journal
    There was nothing of substance in the video. The guy smashed his drive, Ontrack said it was smashed and couldn't be recovered...but then went on to say, "But we are really good at restoring water damaged drives!"

    The whole discussion is made pointless when Ontrack says, "Oh, we can't restore a zero'd drives either."
  • by necro81 (917438) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @10:13AM (#26371229) Journal
    Revision3 [revision3.com]'s Systm [revision3.com] show had an episode that suggested some ways for destroying a hard drive yourself [revision3.com]. They took the position that using a program like Boot'nNuke [dban.org], which overwrites data 1-N times at your choosing, is sufficient to sanitize data without destroying the drive.

    If you want to go the nuclear option, they demonstrated some favorites: mangling the platters in a vice, dremel or hand grinder, propane or cutting torch, melting it in thermite, etc.

    A hospital I worked for once, when decommissioning old computers, would take the hard drive over to a drill press and put a couple holes through it. Nowadays I think they've bought a drive shredder.
  • Just wipe it once (Score:5, Informative)

    by GFree678 (1363845) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @10:20AM (#26371307)

    Really, there's no need to wipe it more than once unless you honestly think it will matter. At least these guys think so:

    http://16systems.com/zero [16systems.com]

  • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @10:28AM (#26371407)

    . . . and tell her to put it in a safe place, and that you might need it later.

    It's gone forever.

    There is no chance that anyone will ever have access to that disk again.

  • by Qbertino (265505) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @10:39AM (#26371559)

    - Take old drive.
    - Screw drive apart. (Might require Torx screwdriver or bit)
    - Take percision manufactured aluminum seperation washers and use them as keyrings, strap-loops or simular stuff.
    - Take drive platters and work over them with fine grained sandpaper.
    - Move head magnets over them a few times.
    - Work over them with even finer grain afterwards.
    - Dishwash platters and polish afterwards.
    - Dry and clean platters.
    - Precisely glue thick undied felt to one side of platter using cut-to-fit carpet tape.
    - Cut out platter shape and hole with a sharp knife.
    - Use and/or sell as avantgarde design coasters (10$ - 12$ a piece).
    - Bring the rest of the dives to recycling, seperating electronics from scrap metal first.

    No way anybody will recover any usefull data of a platter after this treatment. And the platter will look like in mint condition. And they make way cool coasters.

  • This message (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Kludge (13653) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @10:52AM (#26371763)

    ...but the only way to be 100% safe is to smash your hard drive into smithereens. [...]

    This message brought to you by the Hard Drive Manufacturers Association.

  • by Muad'Dave (255648) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @11:42AM (#26372449) Homepage

    Put your hard drive in a sock, and toss it in the dryer with a matching sock. You have a 50% chance of it disappearing into an alternate universe, never to be seen again.

Save energy: Drive a smaller shell.

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