Thursday, March 4, 2010

How Not To Destroy a Flash Drive..and How To

The Smoking Gun describes a recent incident in which a New York city man under investigation by the Secret Service for ATM skimming "grabbed Subject Flash Drive 2, which had been on his person at the time of his arrest, and swallowed". Unfortunately for the subject, after four days had passed without the reappearance of the flash drive, it was surgically removed.

The article does not note whether the data on the drive was recoverable, but the list of other evidence indicates that this probably just added another charge to the accused's list of charges.

If you actually do want to erase a thumbdrive, your best bets are:

  • Eraser for Windows
  • Disk Utility for MacOS
  • DBAN, if you're careful to only wipe the device you mean to, or a simple commandline: dd -if=/dev/zero -of=/dev/your device bs=1M (you can also use urandom to fill with random data, and can adjust your blocksize for speed) for Linux
If you're more interested in destruction, most of the typical processes used to physically destroy hardware work, from a hammer to an appropriately powerful shredder. Remember that they're not magnetic media, and that you degausser won't do you any good.


Luke Faraone said...

If you use a standard SD or microSD card, isn't it easiest just to break the card in half or quarters?

I'd think that data is packed tightly enough on those devices that the result would be unrecoverable.

David said...

Luke, yes - that's a reasonable way for most folks to destroy SD and micro SD cards.

On the more formal side of things, many organizations choose to adopt something like NIST's standard 800-88, which says things like: "Disintegrate, shred, pulverize, or

You can find 800-88 at