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  1. #1
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    Best techniques for the safe disposal of drives




    TOP STORY

    Best techniques for the safe disposal of drives


    By Doug Spindler

    The design of today's solid-state drives has made classic data-wiping techniques ineffective. But there are sanitizing procedures that will effectively render sensitive data on SSDs and other rewriteable storage devices unintelligible.

    The full text of this column is posted at windowssecrets.com/top-story/best-techniques-for-the-safe-disposal-of-drives (paid content, opens in a new window/tab).

    Columnists typically cannot reply to comments here, but do incorporate the best tips into future columns.

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    Congratulations to Doug for a well researched and informative article.
    As a former IBM employee, software developer and (now retired) IT Consultant I completely agree that the most secure way to dispose of a drive is to physically destroy it with a hammer or similar.
    There are software tools available for disk wiping/erasure/cleaning and some even confirm to the US DoD rule of overwriting erased data 3 times with random bit patterns.
    However, these can be very aggressive about removing personal data so a backup is essential.
    Otherwise, encryption is a very good alternative.
    Thanks again,
    ChrisB09

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    If Windows can't "see" the extra/spare 10% of the disk, how will BitLocker encrypt the data in that extra 10% of the SSD? Seems to me that a data recovery tool would still be able to access that unencrypted 10%.

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    Good job on the secure new drive disposal, Doug! Only one correction - Imitation Burroughs Machines did NOT implement ALL the innovations that you ascribe to them. Yep. I had worked for one of the BUNCH companies - Burroughs. I witnessed an IBM rep claim to "design" a single multi-processing, multi-tasking OS 15 years AFTER Burroughs' B5000. The client, knowing better, laughed him out of their office. I saw "big blue" and their bag of dirty tricks in action. At a well known Wall St brokerage, they installed a small system in the firm's partners area, sent market inquiries to a Burroughs B6900 which did the work, then displayed the results as "Processed by IBM." They sold their equipment in the boardrooms, while Burroughs sold to the people who really knew what good was! Yep, IBM was pretty much the precursor of unethical corporate behavior that spawned Microsoft.





    Quote Originally Posted by Kathleen Atkins View Post



    TOP STORY

    Best techniques for the safe disposal of drives


    By Doug Spindler

    The design of today's solid-state drives has made classic data-wiping techniques ineffective. But there are sanitizing procedures that will effectively render sensitive data on SSDs and other rewriteable storage devices unintelligible.

    The full text of this column is posted at windowssecrets.com/top-story/best-techniques-for-the-safe-disposal-of-drives (paid content, opens in a new window/tab).

    Columnists typically cannot reply to comments here, but do incorporate the best tips into future columns.

  5. The Following User Says Thank You to EON4eddy For This Useful Post:

    Fascist Nation (2015-06-25)

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    Quote Originally Posted by HarryH3 View Post
    If Windows can't "see" the extra/spare 10% of the disk, how will BitLocker encrypt the data in that extra 10% of the SSD? Seems to me that a data recovery tool would still be able to access that unencrypted 10%.
    I am with Harry on this one. Unless you use an encryption product starting with the initial use of the drive it seems that the data in areas of storage not currently mapped by Windows would be missed by the initial encryption cutover. Or is it possible that the initial cutover to a product like BitLocker employs access to the SSD at a low enough level that no storage locations escape?

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    My understanding of encrypting an SSD is the encryption makes a copy of the file, encrypts it, then erases the location address of the original file. That unencrypted file is still there and can be retrieved. The only SAFE way to encrypt is to do so immediately after the OS is installed and before any sensitive files are written to disk.

    Smashing with a hammer works for disposal, but the pieces can still hold info. Unless you smash everything into dust, there's still a chance that info can be retrieved. Burning the chips in an incinerator is the fail safe way.

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    If you tell Bitlocker to encrypt the data then it doesn't matter where that data is stored. It will not encrypt erased data, obviously, but Windows TRIM will come along and erase that data for you at some time in the near future.

    cheers, Paul

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    " ... A word of warning: Many SSD and SED manufacturers offer a wipe utility for their drives. But security experts have found that these programs are not completely effective. I don't recommend relying on any of these programs ... "


    Some questions come to mind about SSDs:
    1. Does this mean TRIM does not fully erase deleted data on the SSD?

    2. Does this mean that using a Windows install disc to reformat does not fully erase all data on the SSD (i mean full format not quick format)?

    3. Does this mean that if i boot up using a Parted Magic disc and run Secure Erase that it will not erase all data on the SSD?

    Parted Magic Secure Erase.jpg
    Last edited by starvinmarvin; 2015-06-25 at 12:40.

  10. #9
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    First, thanks to Mr. Spindler for an accurate article.

    • A single wipe with zeros (or other overwrite) makes an unrecoverable data area.
    • SSDs behave differently from HDDs and present unique data elimination issues. Issues not necessarily addressed by 3rd party or manufacturer provided data wiping apps.
    • Encryption is a really good means to ensure data will not be recovered in a readable form if areas do not get wiped (or the drive fails read only or fails off). And changing the password to a randomly generated password of ascii characters that you don't bother to write down...well....
    • SSD maker's data wiping tools while welcome leave significant questions as to their ability to wipe the complete drive. Be nice if they provided a log of what was done or not done as well. Until they come with such assurances ....
    • Physical destruction with a hammer (nice pic BTW) is a very good final way to ensure nobody outside of a well funded nation state, corporate or university lab can recover any data. I note one SSD data destroyer uses electrified pin cushions to crush the chips and fry them at the same time. But as far as I am aware there is still no standards for SSD (or chip) destruction. And until such methods are tested for recovery it is speculation that data cannot be recovered.


    -------------------

    Yes, encryption would need to be deployed at the beginning of use of the SSD drive to ensure all data is encrypted even on deactivated areas (actually true on HDDs too in areas with deactivated sectors).

    https://www.usenix.org/legacy/events...papers/Wei.pdf - SSD erasure problems

    http://forensic.belkasoft.com/downlo...ics%202012.pdf - further discussion on data recovery off of a SSD

    For those who want to sleep well at night with their encrypted drive (assuming the password is safe):
    http://scienceblogs.de/klausis-krypt...tion-of-cases/
    Last edited by Fascist Nation; 2015-06-25 at 14:10. Reason: removed link not about SSDs

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    One thing I wanted to mention: I do not believe the DOD method cited was ever actually adopted by the DOD. It has simply been erroneously repeated on numerous occasions that it is a DOD standard.

    There are only two "standards" I am aware of: NIST and NSA. They are not very good in that they do not discuss the research behind their standard proving efficacy, though the NIST document is better.

    http://csrc.nist.gov/publications/ni...bul2015_02.pdf

    https://www.nsa.gov/ia/mitigation_gu...tion_guidance/ [first link]
    Last edited by Fascist Nation; 2015-06-25 at 13:42.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul T View Post
    ....Windows TRIM will come along and erase that data ....
    That is one advantage of SSDs using TRIM it keeps the amount of deleted areas that still retain data pretty small.

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    I have replaced a lot of Point of Sale and accounting systems over the years and until recent upgrades in data security they have probably contained lots of credit card numbers, customer names/addresses, etc. So I've always been careful to destroy the drive platter. I have never found a drive that I couldn't "wipe" clean with my 3# drilling hammer. Though I confess that I sometimes take the drives apart and destroy the disk. Just for fun and curiosity, the hammer really does work fine.

    A couple of months ago my wife replaced her Samsung Galaxy S2. The charging circuitry had died so it would only work plugged in. Bad for convenience, but still available to data thieves. I used to design and build gigantic computers and a friend was here who programmed ASICs for Qualcomm until 2008. He always worked off of breadboards and rough prototypes, so we were both interested in the details of how a phone was put together. So we very carefully took it apart, examining all of the marvelous miniature technology piece by piece. Then when it was done I put on the pavement and smashed it. Imagine the look on his face.

    So thanks for the article which validates my method. I will be sure to use the hammer when my SSDs fail or get swapped out, but I bet it won't look as neat as the photo in the article.

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    I have found a shotgun blast at 6' to be highly effective for either HD or SSD.

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    The computer recycling firm where we send our out-of-date computers for recycling [logically, really!] sends all the extracted hard disk drives to a further firm which has an extremely powerful industrial shredder which reduces large quantities of hard disks to shreds [again logical].

    This is considerably less trouble than spending a minimum of two hours for each drive running DBAN.
    BATcher

    Time prevents everything happening all at once...

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    When I'm in full-on Destructor mode, I wipe the drive with DBAN and then drill it. Two different data destruction methods, working entirely differently. It will keep out all but the most skilled and determined attacker.

    An SSD will require some special handling, but again. A manufacturer wiping program combined with physical destruction of key parts of the drive will make the device unusable by almost anyone.

    You don't have to make your data mathematically impossible to hack. You only have to put it beyond reach by any sane method. Make any opponent take one look and give up right there. That's what you need to do.

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