Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The ultimate way to protect your old computer's data from snoopers

Clint Smith of Thunder Ranch offers this helpful (?) suggestion.



Thomas W said...

Burning it will destroy the data, though won't do much for air quality in the area.

Just shooting the laptop may not do the job -- the disk drive is the only thing in the laptop that matters, and newer SSD drives can be physically quite small. A dozen holes in a laptop and there the drive (and data) might still be intact.

MadMcAl said...

I know of only one way to absolutely secure your computer and its data.

Remove any power source including any battery, make (or buy) a crate a little bit bigger than the computer, mix a batch of concrete, place the computer in the crate, fill it up with the concrete, wait until the concrete is set, charter a boat to the Mariana Trench, drop the crate into the water above Challenger Deep.

I guarantee you, nobody will get your data.

bmq215 said...

Burning may, in fact, not do the trick either. The data are stored magnetically on metal platters. As long as those platters remain whole (or reconstructible) the data can be recovered by anyone willing the expend enough time and money.

Shooting the drives themselves would probably work if you made enough holes. Thermite does a pretty good job too, as does grinding them to dust.

bmq215 said...

Oh and MadMcAl, while I tend to agree with you there's actually precedent for recovering data off the ocean floor. Pretty cool story https://www.space.com/17055-classified-hexagon-satellite-capsule-ocean-recovery.html

Rich P said...

If only that effect could be propagated to all the other storage sites.

What, no Boomex?

Unverified information has it that secure data storage in U.S. submarines, and perhaps other places, is equipped with a tray of sodium nitrate to encourage total incineration. I spoke with a person "in a position to know", who was charged with filling the voids in sodium nitrate castings using chips of the material and a propane torch. He appeared to be unharmed.

All the modern HD platters I'm aware of are made of aluminum, so melt, stir well, or combust appear to be viable methods of disposal.
If Uncle wanted HD cases and platters made of magnesium, I'm sure he could get them.

MadMcAl said...

bmq215, I mentioned Challenger Deep for a reason. It is nearly impossible to get a robot down there. Finding the computer in the deep is... challenging. Getting the concrete block lifted, well that depends, if you want to be absolutely sure, use a bigger crate and fill the space left over with lead.
Sure, it could be found, lifted and restored, but the chances are... remote. Other options of course involve an active volcano, and throwing the computer in there. But that is a bit dangerous.
The other 100% sure option would be strapping it on a rocket and shooting it into the sun, but I guess that is a little bit on the expensive side.

bmq215 said...

Yeah, it'd certainly be a challenge. Although we've sent a few robots down there over the last couple decades. I think there was just the one human descent in the 60s though. These days there's probably no advantage over ROVs other than the "I was there" factor. Volcanoes and space definitely seem like a sure thing.

Unknown said...

heat up the drive platters enough and they will loose the magnetic information on them. you don't have to melt them.

For Iron, this is ~1500 degrees, a bit above the melting point of Aluminum, but well below brass, copper, silver, gold (temps easily reached in a home shop)

shugyosha said...

It's been a while since I last opened up an HDD, but they used to shatter nicely on small impacts. You just needed torx screwdrivers.

Take care

Will said...

The problem that no one seems to be noticing is that with "cloud storage/computing", all your data may be copied on SOMEONE ELSE'S drives. How do you destroy THAT copy?

It's been mentioned that WIN10 is actually a key logger system. You be totally hosed, if true. (found out after buying a new W10 system, which still sits in the box, now)

shugyosha said...


If you want moderate security, go Linux. These days, it's usually a breeze to install, and the learning curve is not worse than, say, switching to XP was back then. Start with Mint or Ubuntu versions, try them from a DVD for starters, no install required.

If you want real security, go OpenBSD. The system that got an NSA grant pulled. But unless it's changed a lot, that system IS a tad hard/unwelcoming. Most of the useful features leak unto Linux shortly, anyhow. But it's still safer.

Take care.