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Efficient way to erase flash drives, external drives, etc in large quanties?

Posted on 2011-03-18
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Last Modified: 2012-05-11
Hi All,

As flash and external drives become cheaper and cheaper, we are going through them pretty quickly and some of them contain (or did contain) important data (or backups of that data).  How are you all dealing with that?  After a certain number of uses (or time in use) we typically swap out for new equipment because they are so cheap but we are ending up with lots of drives we would like to use for less critical purposes but want to get the information off first.

The answer might be different for externals and flash drives, but is the answer to have a few machines whose whole purpose is to run several passes on these types of drives to wipe them or what are you all doing (small to medium size companies without big resources).

Thanks!
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Question by:Jsmply
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13 Comments
 
LVL 7

Expert Comment

by:Mdragga
ID: 35165240
http://degausser.com/hard-drive-erasers/ looks like something that might be worth looking into depending on the amount of drives you have that you're looking to wipe.

Might consider looking into a workstation that would support hot swappable drives. Have an OS with your prefered wiping software installed and swap the drives in as needed and run the software when you have a drive to blank. The same procedure could be applied for flash drives - just plug them in and run the software when you have a drive to wipe. Getting started with this process would take some time to work through any hardware you have sitting around waiting to be wiped but once you're caught up it would just be a matter of keeping up with it.
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Expert Comment

by:Mdragga
ID: 35165278
A different approach would be software along the lines of this
http://www.jetico.com/wiping-bcwipe-total-wipe-out/

I imagine other software allows for this as well but this specifically lists the ability to wipe multiple drives and USB drives in a single run. So you could again have a machine set aside for this use. Load it up with your internal drives and your USB drives, run the program and wait probably several hours. When you returned everything should be wiped out. Again there is the potential for a lot of swapping depending on how many devices you have waiting for this wipe to be redeployed but once you were through the pile you'd be able to maintain the safe redistribution of hardware without having to worry about sensitive data.
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Author Comment

by:Jsmply
ID: 35165303
Thanks. Once we are caught up we could make do without any hot swap bays. Do you have a preferred software for external drives and a recommended number of passes?
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Author Comment

by:Jsmply
ID: 35165304
Thanks. Once we are caught up we could make do without any hot swap bays. Do you have a preferred software for external drives and a recommended number of passes?
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Expert Comment

by:ghemstrom
ID: 35165479
One might state the question: At what temperature does the information on a harddisk or a flash drive vanish completely... Maybe a kitchen oven would do... this is going to be scrap, is it not?
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Accepted Solution

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Mdragga earned 400 total points
ID: 35165547
http://www.dban.org/download

Excellent pretty full featured free wiping program. You will need to use the Autonuke option to have it wipe out everything it sees including HDDs and USB Drives. For that reason you'll likely want to set it up on a CD instead of letting it run off a USB drive.

The number of wipes in Autonuke is 3 which given time constraints and the fact that it is still rated as DoD (although Short) should be sufficient - unless you're employing some serious spare time data recovery experts...and even then it will likely be enough :) Then if you're really concerned about it when it comes time to actually dispose of the hardware just take a hammer to it!
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LVL 7

Expert Comment

by:Mdragga
ID: 35165570
ghemstrom he stated that they would like to be able to redeploy these once they have been cleared of the sensitive information. Which is why I only suggested the hammer as a final solution before disposal at some future date :)
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Expert Comment

by:ghemstrom
ID: 35165580
I agree with you Mdragga
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Author Comment

by:Jsmply
ID: 35165582
Thanks. We would like to downgrade the drives from important data to casual storage for the average user if we can be convinced its safe. Do we think destroying the drives post dban is necessary?
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LVL 2

Assisted Solution

by:ghemstrom
ghemstrom earned 50 total points
ID: 35165668
http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/bb897443.aspx gives you a simple overwriting tool I think
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LVL 7

Expert Comment

by:Mdragga
ID: 35165751
Probably not nessecary, but there will always be some people who feel the only real way to ensure their information is beyond recovery is to destroy the disk. That, and sometimes taking a hammer to things can be fun. For your uses I believe DBAN will be perfectly acceptable, appropriate, and sufficient.
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LVL 9

Assisted Solution

by:rsoly777
rsoly777 earned 50 total points
ID: 35166533
DBAN is approved by the DOD as a method for removing data. Here is a statement from the company:

Darik's Boot and Nuke ("DBAN") is a self-contained boot disk that securely wipes the hard disks of most computers. DBAN will automatically and completely delete the contents of any hard disk that it can detect, which makes it an appropriate utility for bulk or emergency data destruction.

DBAN is a means of ensuring due diligence in computer recycling, a way of preventing identity theft if you want to sell a computer, and a good way to totally clean a Microsoft Windows installation of viruses and spyware. DBAN prevents or thoroughly hinders all known techniques of hard disk forensic analysis.

Otherwise you can use a hammer and microwave the remains to any disks that do not wipe correctly. :)
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Author Closing Comment

by:Jsmply
ID: 35172748
A machine setup for dban seems like a fine solution. Especially since dban can do several drives at once. Thx.
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