Smashing up a hard drive with a hammer

Posted by Chris Green on Thursday January 8 @ 12:48 am

I’ve just arrived home after a late-night appearance on Richard Bacon’s show on BBc Radio 5 Live as part of the business news segment.

We were discussing how to ensure your data doesn’t end up in the wrong hands should you (or your company) decide to sell off your old machine.

Which suggests the only way to be sure that your data won’t come back from the dead is to smash up your hard drive into pieces with a hammer. I agree, and to prove the point made by Which we attempted to do this on the show.

If we had been doing this for real we would have spent a few more minutes clubbing the drive in question to death to ensure the platter was well and truly destroyed and ripped into multiple pieces, however in five minutes we did manage to damage the drive to a suitable degree.

Of course, a hammer attack is not the only solution to ensure your data can’t be recovered after your hard drive leaves your possession.

There are several software tools available (many of them free) that can erase your drive in a way that ensures previously-stored data is overwritten multiple times, rather than just being flagged as erased. For most consumers, one of these solutions is more than sufficient. You can also use magnets. Not a guaranteed solution, but good enough for most people. A drive that has been magnetically wiped or erased to US DoD standard is pretty much clean. If anything did remain on the drive, the cost and complexity of extracting the information would make it pointless, unless the data itself was worth a colossal amount (such as the plans for performing a successful break-in at Fort Knox etc).

For businesses that intend to dispose of old computers, particularly those handling sensitive information such as customer lists, financial data, credit card details etc, destruction is well worth considering. In the same way that companies shred CDs, hard drives that previously contained sensitive data should be removed from the machine being sold off/given away/recycled and destroyed. Break the drive open, remove the platter (the magnetic spinning disc or discs inside the drive) and wreck it as much as possible – shred it into as many pieces as possible.

Some would still call this excessive, but it does ensure peace-of-mind.

One response to “Smashing up a hard drive with a hammer”

  1. Audrey Crawford says:

    The CESG (the Information Assurance (IA) arm of GCHQ) recommend DEGAUSSING (magntically erasing) a hard drive before destroying/crushing it, to be absolutely sure that data cannot be recovered from the hard drive.

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