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An Outrageous Hard Drive Question


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#1
newbikekiller

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I just saw the movie Hitman, and in this film Agent 47 uses some kind of software routine that deletes (presumably permanently) his hard drive when an unsuspecting Russian agent touches it (presumably not using the correct key-stroke).

Is such a thing possible? What are the various ways of accomplishing a quick and permanent delete and what are the pros and cons of each way?

Be as specific as possible, I would like to try to build just such a device (I'm an Engineer, albeit Naval Architecture and Marine), Also if any are available commercially, I'd like to look into them.

My thoughts are

1.) Create a strong electro-magnetic field very close to the hard disk
2.) Use several small explosive charges again very close to the disk

But I'm sure there are other ways. As an example you could run a software routine that accomplishes a complete wipe (say 25 passes writing the Hard disk with random numbers.) But for that you'd somehow have to make the computer hard disk and battery VERY difficult to remove. Also there would still be the risk of someone smashing the laptop with a hammer to make the delete process but they would have to be pretty crafty!
:)
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#2
Tyger

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Quick and permanent don't belong together when you refer to removing data. A simple format will make it hard, but not impossible to recover data, it only rewrites the references to where the data is on the disk so that the old data can be written over by new. To completely remove the data the drive needs to be written to zeros or a random pattern, which means every byte of data on the disk needs to be accessed and changed. A much slower process.
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#3
dsenette

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To completely remove the data the drive needs to be written to zeros or a random pattern, which means every byte of data on the disk needs to be accessed and changed. A much slower process.

even this isn't complete...the only way to completely erase an HD is to physically destroy the disks
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#4
shard92

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To completely remove the data the drive needs to be written to zeros or a random pattern, which means every byte of data on the disk needs to be accessed and changed. A much slower process.

even this isn't complete...the only way to completely erase an HD is to physically destroy the disks



yep.... burn baby burn....
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#5
newbikekiller

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I see, well I'd still like to hear if such a device is available commercially.

I also thought of:

Releasing a chemical compound that would eat away the magnetic film. That seems like it would be easy and relatively safe. At least in comparison to blowing it up / burning it.

It seems like blowing it up might not quite do it, but if you burned it with a small amount of napalm like material you'd be in business.

Ok, well, I'm thinking now. Such a device would have a lot of applications in government, military, and not to mention with criminals. It seems like one *would* have been produced, but it's possible it has not yet been made.

Peter
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#6
Kemasa

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A strong magnetic field would work, but it would have to be close or very powerful, neither of which would be practical, especially since it would need to be installed inside a very limited space.

Writing the data would work, but time would be a problem.

Explosives would work, but would be quite dangerous.

A mechanical means could work to sand the coating off the disk, but the size of the disk would have to be increased to install the means to do this. This would mean that the disk would be expensive.

Being a bit tricky might work though. If you modified the firmware you could do a couple of things, especially if you could change the label so that it matched the fake space. You could have it mark the disk as in danger and then give false data when reads are attempted and wipe out the data instead of reading it. Another idea would be to have fake data space and when triggered it gives an alternate reality. This would halve the data space on the disk, if you want to make it look completely real. Neither of these would work if the platers or control board is removed.

You can encrypt the data on the disk, which would protect the data from some, although not the government if they really want it.\

I suspect such things have not been produced since for the most part it is not needed. I recall hearing a means of destroying equipment on military planes/boats when it is disabled and will fall into the control of others. Not sure of how this is done though. Enough C4 on the outside would certainly destroy the data, as well as many things around the disk, but how many people would want to have that and hope that an accident does not happen?
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#7
newbikekiller

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Yea I think an explosive is a little messy, besides it would have to be a big bang.

There are a lot of design challenges with any of the ideas.

Electromagnetic Field:
CONS:
Would require a large current drain (might not work on low battery).
Would probably require a custom coil and case mounting at a minimum.
PROS:
Simple electric control circuit

Disk Write:
CONS
Time consuming
Could be circumvented by cutting off p/s
PROS
Relatively easy to implement

Explosives
CONS
Very dangerous
Large
Difficult to implement
PROS
Will physically destroy disk

Chemical release
CONS
Complex electrical interface to time chemical release
PROS
Will physically destroy disk


I like Chemical Release the best, but I think that I'd be easier for me to start with creating an HD that includes electromagnets lined in the casing. I can do some simple testing to see how strong of field I will need to throughly erase the disk (then double/triple that in my actual design :) ).

I'll start with regular (not laptop) computer hard drives, that way space is not an issue.
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