Here at Microsoft we have an active internal discussion group where most security-minded folk hang out. The topic of data destruction came up recently, it’s actually a lot more difficult than most people think. CIPHER /W and SDELETE do a reasonable job, but they aren’t perfect: the paper One big file is not enough: a critical evaluation of the dominant free-space sanitization technique dives into some interesting detail. Frequently people talk about DoD (U.S. Department of Defense) compliance, but seven wipes really aren’t necessary, according to Secure deletion: a single overwrite will do it. I’ve always thought the notion that bits will somehow “soak” down into the disk and could be recovered by “shaving off” the disk’s top layer is silly—probably invented by the folks who want to sell you secure wipe utilities. If that were really true, then it would be a fairly simple operation to “wash” away encryption, no?
For thorough data destruction, I’ve been a fan of shotgun washing. But for those without shotguns at the office, a company called Security Engineered Machinery has introduced the Model 22 HDD Hard Drive Disintegrator.
This system is built specifically to destroy hard disk drives. Load up to 10 drives on to the automatically indexing conveyor and in 30 minutes you'll have nothing but a pile of metal chips. The unit comes as a complete system, including sound-dampening enclosure and HEPA vacuum to remove airborne contaminants. The disintegrator's rotating knives transform the drives into unreconstructable fragments, leaving all data unrecoverable. the bin is made of aluminum, to prevent magnetic pieces from sticking to it
Watch the video, it’s pretty cool. I love the narrator’s dead-pan delivery, but the resemblance to the Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator really made me chuckle. They should do a marketing tie-in with Marvin the Martian.
“Oh, recoverable data makes me very angry. Very angry indeed!” (h/t Scott Culp for the quote.)
Speaking of washers and aluminum, my six-year-old Frigidaire front-load clothes washer started making a loud thumping sound during the spin cycle. So I did a little bit of searching and found out that this particular unit, a popular model made by Electrolux and sold under the Frigidaire, Kenmore, and General Electric brands, was apparently designed by someone who lacked a high school understanding of chemistry. An aluminum spider arm is connected to the stainless steel inner basket, which of course gets wet during use. What happens when you apply water to the interface of aluminum and steel? Galvanic action! The aluminum disintegrates. Some owners have posted videos of their washers here and here.
I’ll attempt the $300 three-hour repair, and I’ll paint the new spider arm with some primer and anti-rust paint. Or maybe I’ll convert it into my very own Illudium Q-22 HDD Explosive Hard Drive Disintegrator.