Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Data Destruction: Hammer

If you ask for methods to quickly destroy data, You'll probably get a whole bunch of advice ranging from a decent software wipe  up to nuking it from orbit. Most of them are effective but need special equipment or hours of time. What if you want something quick and simple? Hit the drive with a hammer.

I was lucky enough to find a scrap drive pre-hammered by the prior owner, so this is a real example of attempted data destruction. I've removed the company name from the drive since I'm sure they'd be surprised if they knew what IT did with their old servers.

At first glance the damage doesn't look too bad, but the drive isn't mounting. Clearly it's time to open it up.

Look at that! Data platters in perfect condition inside a drive that spins up perfectly. The armature isn't moving quite correctly, but the read heads themselves are in great condition. Almost all the data on this drive will be intact and could be recovered by a sufficiently determined person.

A few points to note:
  • They were hammering exactly the wrong end of the drive. While the drive mechanism might not work afterwards, it's a good idea to hit the end where you actually keep data.
  • This drive has a single platter mounted low. Even if he'd repeatedly hit it in the right spot he might have missed the platters completely. 
  • Let's be honest: Hammering the case isn't going to do as much damage as you hope because the case is partly designed as a protective layer against blunt trauma. You'd have to scale this up to a sledgehammer to be sure it works.

And because I like them so much, let's finish with a few closeups of all that beautiful undestroyed data.

Next test: microwaving your drive. If anybody feels like donating to that cause, I'll need half a dozen drives of the same model with matching firmware.

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