Data on Failed Disks

With the ever increasing threats, identity theft and regulations, Corporate data on failed hard disks that come out of storage cabinets and servers is being more scrutinized. Degaussing and Destroying the disks are the frontrunners in this situation for us, but they introduce their own sets of obstacles. Our primary storage vendor is HP and they aren't giving us definitive answers about the data on failed hard disks nor can they guarantee that our data will be protected and destroyed before sending the disk to the next location after repair. I was just curious as to how others on the field handled this type of issue. I would expect the storage vendor to accept responsibility for destroying the information on the disks - but HP isn't giving us the necessary comfort level about the data on failed drives.

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You seem to be speaking about harddrives that have physically/electrically failed. Is this correct?

If that is the case, then there is probably little you can do after the fact. IF they are going to repair, you should find some contractual means to control (non-disclosure clause). You are really putting it all in thier hands.

For access failure, try BartPE or similar.
Bart is probably your best chance to get to data on any dead drive.

Looks like you also refered to destroying data before sending disk to repair. That would be the best solution, assuming that you don’t care about recovering the data. Degaussing would be good; there are lots of guides that will tell you about procedures and variables for different disks and data. Other than that, for non-functional disks, the other extreme would be a hammer. But since you are sending for repair, I’d guess that wasn’t an option.

For functional disks, there are utilities that will wipe the disks. You could do much of the same by filling disk with all “1”s then all “0”s repeatedly (7-10 times) to get same effect.

But the real oportunity would be proactive. Impement encryption of data on disks. There are numerous was to implement in DAS, NAS and SANs. You could even get some benefit by implementing a RAID, which splits data over multiple disks. However, RAID was designed to protect data, not secure it; check out the different RAID modes.

I’ve kind of bounced around on different topics related to your question. I hope some got close to your problem.

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  • MemphisJim
    Thanks for the info. I am looking for how others in the industry handle the data on failed disks - whether distruction or contractural. If it's destruction - what method has worked easily and satisfies legal and risk mgt? Curious to see other others handle this issue. We currently ship drives off to repair - but that may soon change...
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  • Poppaman2
    There was a similar discussion a while back in a different forum (please do not ask where, as I certainly do not recall). The best answer to the question about data destruction came from a member of the US Army, who stated that he wasn't concerned with the issue: he simply let an M1A1 Abrams tank roll over the drive(s) in question a few times and POOF! - no data.... Of course, not all of us have access to an M1A1 tank... As previously stated, the only certain way to destroy the data is to physically destroy the disk. I find that a small torx screwdriver (to open the case) and a belt sander work quite well (no, I'm not kidding...). For those disks which need to be returned to a vendor, I do utilize UBCD4WIN (the previously mentioned Ultimate Boot CD...). A program called Shredder also works well, and if I'm not mistaken, the old OnTrak disk overlay diskettes had a data management program as well (but don't quote me on that - it could have been WD or Segate...).
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  • Mrbill357
    when I was in the military, if the disk is writable, do a disk erase which writes the 7 to 10 times with various combinations. The disk could then be re-used with the same or greater security level by someone else. If is was unusable, we ate the cost (which costs more, the data falling in the wrong hands or the drive?) and would degausse, beat it with a sledge hammer till it was in pieces, and then burn it in the incinerator till it was nothing but melted metal. Depending on what company you deal with, you can pretty much specify what you want done to any disks returned with data on them.
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  • Me
    We recieved a communication from the feds that raid-5 arrays do not require destruction. All of the data under our control is placed on RAID-5 arrays. When a drive fails we toss it and insert a new drive.
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  • Markempee
    I believe that its still the responsibility of the hard disk manufacturers, however, you really have to push it through by inquiring and telling to them the real problems so that they may come for an effective solution later on.
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