Old hard drives yield data bonanza

By Julio Franco · 15 replies
Jan 15, 2003
  1. Two Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate students have uncovered a treasure trove of personal and corporate information on used disk drives.
    Simson Garfinkel and Abbi Shelat, students at MIT’s Laboratory of Computer Science, said Wednesday that they bought 158 disk drives for less than $1,000 on the Web and at swap meets.

    Scavenging through the drives, they found more than 5,000 credit card numbers, medical reports, detailed personal and corporate financial information, and several gigabytes worth of personal e-mail and pornography.

    Very interesting read indeed, see the rest here.
  2. ---agissi---

    ---agissi--- TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,978   +15

    Man - Intresting story! So did they like Undelete or was the data just left on the HDs? How could you do a true 100% format on a harddriver if windows cant?
  3. poertner_1274

    poertner_1274 secroF laicepS topShceT Posts: 4,172

    The only true way to do it is to write and rewrite over and over multiple times until you feel it is gone. I'd say it would take about 6 or 7 times if not more.....Even then I'm sure there is still a way to get it back.
  4. Vehementi

    Vehementi TechSpot Paladin Posts: 2,704

    Heh I could go for that...

    Nice article!
  5. StormBringer

    StormBringer TS Maniac Posts: 2,244

    I read somewhere that the UK government only considers data completely gone when the drive has been destroyed. This was explained in further detail as the platters being ground into a powder and sealed in containers for more than 7 years. This is to ensure that the particles have become demagnetized.

    According to the same article, the US Gov. uses a method of writing and rewriting data 7 times.

    Norton's Wipe Info supposedly uses the same process as that of the US Gov, thou I think if I really wanted to make sure the data was gone, I'd be more likely to use something closer to the UK method of destroying data.
  6. young&wild

    young&wild TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 993

    There's a program called "killdisk" which claims to be able to permanently delete every files in your hard disk.

  7. Julio Franco

    Julio Franco TechSpot Editor Topic Starter Posts: 7,667   +987

    I always thought a low level format was good enough for destroying data, at least for a newbie to recover, not meant for critical national security data, of course ;)
  8. Per Hansson

    Per Hansson TS Server Guru Posts: 1,957   +214

    Well, a hammer is both quick cheap and fun:D
  9. Phantasm66

    Phantasm66 TS Rookie Posts: 5,734   +8

    if you wanna destroy data on a disk, the linux command

    dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/hda

    where hda is primary master, hdc secondary master, etc... would go some of the way.

    modern hard drives have no bad sectors because they are mapped out. but just because a sector has been mapped bad to write to does not mean its bad to read. so you still have some risk there.

    however, writing with zeros would probably give a computer forensic detective serious problems getting anything back that was worth a damn.

    BUT! how many people do that? How many people even would do quick format? people are *****s and this story illustrates that perfectly.
  10. Vehementi

    Vehementi TechSpot Paladin Posts: 2,704

    Or for our French friends, a trip to the Eiffel Tower can hit two birds with one stone...:D
  11. So if I understood this correctly, someone bought some old hard drives and found episodes of Bonanza? I must be missing something...
  12. Now wait a minute here. Ground into a powder sure, but after that is it really necessary to seal it in a container for 7 years? That is ridiculous, must be an urban myth. I mean as if someone is going to be able to read data from a pile of dust. If they are that paranoid why take the powder up in a plane and sprinkle it over the Pacific ocean. Sheesh...
  13. iss

    iss TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 1,994

    Maybe they are just playing it safe. and be extra careful till the 7 year statute of limitations runs out on certain felonies. :haha:
  14. SNGX1275

    SNGX1275 TS Forces Special Posts: 10,742   +421

    Or instead of grinding it into a powder and storing it it might be cheaper just to melt it down, stir it up a bit, and then recycle it or throw it in the nearest landfill.
  15. Vehementi

    Vehementi TechSpot Paladin Posts: 2,704

    How about playing baseball with it?

    Or how about taking a trip to your nearest volcano?

    This has turned from "Old hard drives yield data bonanza" to "name your favorite way to destroy a hard drive."
  16. Personally I would just use a transporter to beam it into space...
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