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(TBO)   Students buy used computers and recover personal info from hard drives   ( ap.tbo.com) divider line
    More: Scary  
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17205 clicks; posted to Main » on 16 Jan 2003 at 2:42 PM (15 years ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»

141 Comments     (+0 »)

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2003-01-16 01:38:58 PM  
I don't doubt that files can be retrieved from HDs. I do however doubt the authenticity of their names. "Over two years, Simson Garfinkel and Abhi Shelat bought 158 used hard drives" Simon and Garfunkel? and I Biatch alot?
2003-01-16 02:46:09 PM  
They found
img.fark.netView Full Size
2003-01-16 02:47:22 PM  
And that is why, when my hard drive at work decided to bite the biscuit I locked it in the company safe.
2003-01-16 02:48:30 PM  
c:\format c:
2003-01-16 02:48:41 PM  
I just bought Pete Townsend's old Mac. Let's look. (vomits) F*cking Europerv!
2003-01-16 02:48:43 PM  
Simson Garfinkel and Hawl Oates.
2003-01-16 02:48:57 PM  
That gives me an idea. I bought a laptop from Pete Townsend on ebay.
2003-01-16 02:49:36 PM  
K-nuck beat me to it!
2003-01-16 02:49:55 PM  
Luckily all the hard drives at my job are fake...
2003-01-16 02:50:11 PM  
"the only sure way to erase a hard drive is to squeeze it"

Really? I thought a good squeeze would...Isn't it the other way around??
2003-01-16 02:50:14 PM  
Wait a sec here.. he's an MIT student yet he gave his dad his old PC and didn't know how to clear the hard drive?

It's called format c:, dumbass!
2003-01-16 02:50:16 PM  
[image from myweb.tiscali.co.uk too old to be available]
2003-01-16 02:50:41 PM  
Shows....how......fast.....I...type. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
2003-01-16 02:50:51 PM  
"The "personal information" the nerds discovered turned out to be trivial and uninteresting. A gigantic waste of manhours in a Herculean effort to retrieve bullshiat.
2003-01-16 02:50:58 PM  
mmmhhhhhh, discared retrievable porn.....
2003-01-16 02:51:03 PM  
Before you get rid of your computer, let the hard drive sit in a cola bath (assuming you don't need the drive anymore) for a day.

No one will be able to retrieve your gigs of kiddy porn, Mr. Townshend?
2003-01-16 02:51:45 PM  
Good lord, they'll find out that I'm secretly Batman!
2003-01-16 02:51:54 PM  
So long as they can't steal my Avril Lavigne MP3s, everything's cool.
2003-01-16 02:52:36 PM  
You see? Ultimately, computers are evil and will result in the downfall of mankind.

That's why I refuse to use them.
2003-01-16 02:52:41 PM  

Strife, you can c:\format c: all you want, you can still recover the data

2003-01-16 02:53:10 PM  
Umm..Simson Garfinkel is a bit more than an "MIT grad student". Just Google for his name...
2003-01-16 02:53:24 PM  

Strife, you can c:\format c: all you want, you can still recover the data
2003-01-16 02:54:05 PM  
It's called format c:
Reformatting doesn't destroy data on the drive. It just makes it harder to get it.
2003-01-16 02:54:10 PM  
Yep, I'd say the cola bath oughtta do it, but I'd use a refreshing Dr Pepper.
2003-01-16 02:54:12 PM  
don't get too smug. Apparently you don't know how to really erase your hard drive either. Format just builds new file tables in most cases. You need to low-level format or write zeros over the data. Even then, it can still be recovered ith the right equipment and now-how.
2003-01-16 02:54:38 PM  
I bought a computer from a friend a few years back, and the same thing happened. Credit card numbers, SS#'s, all sorts of information. Luckily, they gave it to someone who was honest enough to delete all of that stuff.
2003-01-16 02:54:48 PM  
[image from sdsc.edu too old to be available]
2003-01-16 02:54:51 PM  
The only sure way to erase a hard drive is to "squeeze" it: writing over the old information with new data - all zeros, for instance - at least once, but preferably several times.


But few people go to the trouble. Many ordinary computer users toss their old drives into the closet, or take a sledgehammer to it.

2003-01-16 02:54:52 PM  
formatting alone isn't 100% effective in making your old data go away...the article is right, something actually needs to be written over the old data for it to be truly gone.

that or you can physically destroy the drive...take it apart, burn the platters, etc etc.
2003-01-16 02:55:13 PM  
still not as cool as when george bought jon voight's old car
2003-01-16 02:55:15 PM  
I usually just bukkahkie into the hard drive. That erases everything.
2003-01-16 02:55:49 PM  
I took an axe to my old hard drive...no data there.
2003-01-16 02:57:17 PM  
my understanding is that "format c:" only erases the boot record, but the data is still recoverable using forensic tools. That's why the NSA has its employees write and rewrite 0's over each sector, multiple times.

When I sell a used hard drive I use a program called file shredder to do this, then use a program called "killdisk" to do the whole drive...
2003-01-16 02:57:19 PM  
What if they find out I downloaded all of those Creed songs.
They will think I am an A-hole.
2003-01-16 02:59:19 PM  
People here need to read something 20 times before they believe it so here goes:

c:\format c: isn't going to get you very far. All that does is give the OS "permission" to overwrite those sectors. It doesn't actually erase anything. (How do you think recover utilities work?)

There is software you can buy (and some that is free) that will truly erase your hard drive... Its kinda scary what I may have floating around my old Macintosh computers.
2003-01-16 02:59:23 PM  
amazing what reading the article can do for you:
Even reformatting a drive, or preparing the hard drive all over again to store files, may not do it. Fifty-one of the 129 working drives in the MIT study had been reformatted, and 19 of them still contained recoverable data.
BUT these are just two amateurs (albeit MIT amateurs); if you ever do anything to attract REAL geeks youll find that anything short of setting it on fire isnt good enough. And THEN theyll take whatever pieces are left and still get something off of them. In short: If you dont need a hard drive anymore and there might have been, at any time, something sketchy on it, smash it and throw it in the dumpster.
2003-01-16 02:59:44 PM  
bah who cares. I've got nothing stored on my computer that would freak me out if someone else had access to it. Not that I'll be selling any of my harddrives any time soon. And somehow I'm doubting the average person who buys a used harddrive is really going to go all data recovery just to see what they can find.
2003-01-16 02:59:56 PM  
For the non-techs here (painfully obvious who they are :P ) its fairly ease to recover data fron a drive thats only been reformatted, and not that much harder to do so when some or all of the drive have been overwritten. Even exposure to "powerful magnets" can't totally erase a drive (a magnet powerful enough to do so would actually physically mangle the drive itself)

If you don't want someone snooping thru your old bits I suggest hammer and fire, or if you want to sell a drive use this: http://www.heidi.ie/eraser/

format c:\ *smirk* ... bwahahahaha! :P
2003-01-16 03:00:45 PM  
so does that mean the IT guy at work can see what i've been looking at even if I delete all my temporary internet files?
2003-01-16 03:01:21 PM  
I wonder if any of them were mine. I've sold a few used HDs, Zip Disks, etc. in my time, and before I do I always use 'wipe' to delete everything, dd from /dev/zero till it fills up, then reformat them into one huge partition, and then cram it full of pron. I consider it a little 'value-added' bonus..
2003-01-16 03:01:49 PM  
Best way to erase all the data:

Even if you don't physically destroy the drive, the magnetic fields will surely wipe out all traces of your data.

Oh yeah, and a little napalm might help.

If you prefer a software method, I would suggest writing over your pr0n several times with random data, not 0s.
2003-01-16 03:02:12 PM  
And even IF you use a hammer and fire (with or without lighter-fluid) any self-respecting psychic will be able to find your child porn and illegal mp3's. You're all going to hell.
2003-01-16 03:02:18 PM  
Big, fat, many-layered Photoshop files are one way to cover old data. Make a 250-500MB or so PSD (it's not too hard) and dupe it to cover the whole drive. For extra care: wipe and reformat.
2003-01-16 03:02:42 PM  
Where is the duh tag?
2003-01-16 03:02:42 PM  
I use a HD until it dies. When it dies, I open it and take the extremely powerful magnet out of it. Next time you have a HD die, check it out, they're REALLY strong.
2003-01-16 03:02:48 PM  
People are dumb.
2003-01-16 03:03:58 PM  
Can somebody tell me how writing trash data (or whatever kind of data) over a drive several times won't get rid of any useful information about what was on the first layer? It's not like a bit can remember when it was a zero, and when it was a one... "Oh, somebody made me 1, and then 0, and then 1 again.. but i was 0 first off!"
2003-01-16 03:05:21 PM  
And Captain Obvious was knocked over with a feather.
2003-01-16 03:05:46 PM  
Feh, in my day there were no hard drives. We had reel to reel machines and we loved them!
2003-01-16 03:05:47 PM  
Old HDs are fun. They have super strong magnets in them that are fun to mess around with. Once you've ripped the magnets out, you can unscrew the retaining ring that holds the platters, plug the HD in to a power supply and get the suckers spinning at 7200 RPM and then tilt the drive to the side and launch them down the hall. It's all for "security purposes" of course.
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