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Computer Security



Destroy that Disk

How to do do a bit of Data Destruction - and indulge
in a little Wanton Vandalism

Did you know that data thieves just love a discarded hard disk? Your bank details and other pieces of important personal information can quite easily be found by nasty people even if you think you have erased them. Even drives that are not functioning can have the data extracted. To someone who knows a little bit about hard drives it is a 'doddle' as they say around here.

Here we show you how to render the data on an old drive near to impossible to access - so make doubly sure that you have in fact pulled off everything of value. The method described here may not be very Hi Tech, but cost-wise it is very cheap (especially if you borrow the tools from a friend).

First thing to do is acquire eye protection. VERY IMPORTANT - and protective gloves can also be a good idea - we will explain that one later. Avoiding interposing a digit (the fleshy type) between the moving chisel or hammer and the workpiece, is also good practice.

The Tools

The Tools and a Hard Disk

You probably have a good idea of what comes next...

We would emphasize that observing safety measures is very important. The author of the article sustained a small blood blister (more on this later) and also noticed that a few fragments reached the face.

It is also important to do the dirty deed where no damage can be done to the surface used.

Pleasure can be derived from destructive as well as creative activities and this task was definitely quite enjoyable, despite the small injury.

What we see in the next picture is what happens after a couple of solid blows with the lump hammer. Hopefully I can also erase the marks on the garden paver before the good lady discovers them.

By the way if you have suddenly realised that your data back up didn't work properly then I am sorry but only a very determined effort and lots of money will get the data out. Only if the disks are undamaged is there even a remote hope.

Wallop with Hammer

Softening Up

Our patio is getting to be a bit like a bit like an abattoir for disk drives. Perhaps not too good a metaphor; pretty tasteless actually but this weekend has seen half a dozen disk drives come to a rather messy end.

Cracked Open

The Tools and a Hard Disk

Somewhere between chopping firewood and eating mussels or oysters, and every bit as satisfying. This is where having a chisel with a guard becomes very important.

We are making good progress, even if the recycled material ends up in a third world country (as much of it does) it will not be much of a prize for a would-be datathief.

I saw a TV program where a very normal English family had a visit from a journalist carrying a disk drive discovered in Nigeria where their computer, which they had ethically recycled - or so they believed. Even though they had wiped their disk before parting with it, it had been possible to extract bank statements and other information including passwords and some information on their surfing history. The program also showed the local cybercafe in Lagos where a small group were busy profiting from data from the latest harvest of disks from England.

The disks have a mirror finish. Not surprising as these days they can be made from glasses or ceramic.

Some disks are as a result very brittle and will shatter in to small pieces so it is a good idea to work in an area where it is easy to clean up. and contain them, A plastic sheet will be used next time I have some disks to destroy.

This is also also another reason to wear gardening gloves.


Visible Disks

Ready for the Big One

A short pause to admire the high precision workmanship that goes into a modern drive. The technology has developed remarkably over the years. Just think an area of the disk surface that is the same as a couple of pages in a paperback novel can carry one hundred thousand novels (a 1.6 Terabyte disk)

lump hammer again

The data is going nowhere

This disks proper is of the metal alloy type and has taken a few bashes.

Always curious I decided to try to extract the high powered magnets. That was when I sustained the slight injury.High tech magnets can have very strong attractions and my finger managed to be nipped by two pieces determined to get a bit closer to each other, hence the blood blister mentioned earlier.

The remains are joining a pile derived from similar devices and they will be taken to the recycling center. The actual disks can be strung together and used as quite attractive wind chimes or bird scarers. The metal type can be heated in a gas flame and can develop unusual and colorful surface effects.

Heating will also destroy data and popping your old drives into a furnace or a bonfire is an alternative to what I have described in this article. This will of course be considerably less satisfying than my more 'kinetic' approach'.

If you are a company or organisation and have a larger requirement, you can of course bring in data destruction specialists who will offer shredding or de-gaussing as alternatives.

That a moth eats cloth is a myth for a moth has no mouth - its the grubs that makes the holes in your cardigan ~ DE


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