Burn your hard drives.

The day is approaching fast (likely the release date of Microsoft’s next version of its Windows operating system, called Windows Vista) on which a so-called trusted platform module on your computer’s motherboard will be able bar you from accessing the data on your computer, or at least bar you from doing with it what you want to do, if what you want to do does not comply with the rules embedded in it.

This is on the one hand a consequence of the entertainment industry’s global strategy to reduce the utility of their products to be able to command higher prices for them, and on the other an attempt to increase the security of data on a computer – in case you would not be able to access your files, it would be rather certain that no one else would be either.

Well, don’t be too sure.

There’s a chance your government might be happy to act as a lock and key service BBC is reporting today

“UK officials are talking to Microsoft over fears the new version of Windows could make it harder for police to read suspects’ computer files. Windows Vista is due to be rolled out later this year. Cambridge academic Ross Anderson told MPs it would mean more computer files being encrypted.

He urged the government to look at establishing “back door” ways of getting around encryptions.

The Home Office later told the BBC News website it is in talks with Microsoft.”

Some wise security advisor once explained that, just as with printed paper, if the value of the information you want to keep private exceeds the value of the hardware it’s stored on, there’s only one way to make sure the information stays private: burn, shred or otherwise physically destroy the media the information is stored on. So this is probably a good day for hard drive manufacturers. And I suppose it is a good day for open source operating systems – the penguin will be smiling.

Remembering how a German census was blocked by the constitutional court in 1983 (Wikipedia, in German) because of concerns about informational self determination, I am still puzzled to see how most people’s attitude towards privacy were corrupted by increased interaction with technology – just this week, news appeared (FT) of a Chicago security firm having “tagged” its workforce with RFID chips “as a way of controlling access to a room where it holds security video footage for government agencies and the police.”

7 thoughts on “Burn your hard drives.

  1. Well, now i know a little better why Germany isn’t favourable on doing a census anymore. Trouble is there hasn’t been a proper census in Germany for 2 decades now. And seeing that Wiki link a virtual census (using electronic registers) is entirely out of the question…

  2. Seriously, if you want to make the data on a hard drive permanently unavailable, you need to do physical damage to the magnetic medium on which the data is stored. My personal recommendation is the Black & Decker method – drill some holes right through the hard drive; circuit board, disk, and all. It’s even more thorough than smashing it, because you know you’ve done irreparable damage to the magnetic storage medium.

  3. Not good enough. It will be irreparable but not unreadable. Circuit board does not contain any of your information so you don’t have to destroy it and the disk is so full of error correction that i would believe you if you told me that if you drill a hole through it you can still recover all the data on it. Especially when you run an OS, like XP, who likes to move the data on the harddisk

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  5. The proper way to destroy the information is not drilling holes, but the old one.

    Burning.

    Magnetic informations will be destroyed if the medium is exposed to some not so high temperature, in the range of 600 degrees Celsius, for some time.

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