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United Kingdom Government The Media Your Rights Online

Now On Video: GCHQ Destroying Laptop Full of Snowden Disclosures 237

Posted by timothy
from the ask-not-what-your-country-can-destroy-for-you dept.
An anonymous reader writes "On Saturday 20 July 2013, in the basement of the Guardian's office in Kings Cross, London, watched by two GCHQ technicians, Guardian editors destroyed hard drives and memory cards on which encrypted files leaked by Edward Snowden had been stored. This is the first time footage of the event has been released."
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Now On Video: GCHQ Destroying Laptop Full of Snowden Disclosures

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  • by Immerman (2627577) on Saturday February 01, 2014 @03:58AM (#46126867)

    In fact they claim it was made completely clear to the head honcho ordering the destruction that other copies did in fact exist and that this display would not change anything. It was purely a PR/attempted intimidation stunt.

  • by Eyeball97 (816684) on Saturday February 01, 2014 @04:15AM (#46126921)

    Actually I was alluding to common practices going back many centuries, so well done on leaping to conclusions.

  • by Tom (822) on Saturday February 01, 2014 @04:33AM (#46126977) Homepage Journal

    If anything it is slightly comical that these people think they can destroy digital information with drills and grinders and so on. Obviously they really don't, GHCQ do not have a reputation of being digitards.

    Ignoring the fact that copies exist (and everyone involved knew that), physical destruction is in fact the recommended way to destroy the data on a hard drive, SSD drive, flash memory, etc. etc.

    You can overwrite the drive 50 times and you can not be certain that the data is unrecoverable. If you put a grinder to the drive surface, you can be very certain of that.

    There's a reason the military shreds harddrives when it disposes of them.

  • Re:Motherboards (Score:5, Informative)

    by deconfliction (3458895) on Saturday February 01, 2014 @05:37AM (#46127103)

    When your server gets rooted by a hacker, every security professional worth his money will tell you to wipe it and do a complete reinstall. There is no way to clean up the system without that where you can be certain that there's not a backdoor left somewhere you didn't look.

    Those were the good ol' days. These days everybody knows there are half a dozen backdoors in the various firmwares that even an OS wipe won't get. (disk, network, bios, etc)

  • by phantomfive (622387) on Saturday February 01, 2014 @06:20AM (#46127209) Journal
    Generally when deleted files are able to be recovered, the bytes of the files weren't actually overwritten, they were merely marked as deleted by the filesystem.

    Theoretically, when a file has been overwritten with known data, it is possible to use an electron microscope to recover what was there before, but as far as know, no one has been able to actually achieve this. Especially with modern hard drives that are more dense.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 01, 2014 @06:34AM (#46127251)

    You can overwrite the drive 50 times and you can not be certain that the data is unrecoverable.

    Bullshit. If your drive works fine, even after single (or two, if you are paranoiac) overwrite with random data no-fucking-body in the whole universe will recover anything.

    There's a reason the military shreds harddrives when it disposes of them.

    But for completely different reasons what you think, its because:
    - your drive might be faulty so the overwrite is actually not performed
    - could be faster (overwrite of big disk can take hours)
    - the destruction can be performed by IT-ignorant, non-technical guy
    - the destruction process can be easily CONTROLLED by another non-technical persons.

    This last one is actually main reason: in such process there are usually more people involved which "watch each other".
    However control of soft (data-only) destruction is very difficult: even if all involved people would be highly technically capable (including your commanding officer), It is difficult to assure that the other guy does not use (intentionally or unintentionally) wrong, hacked or faulty software, does not make copy during overwrite, makes proper control read after the process etc ...

  • by Sique (173459) on Saturday February 01, 2014 @07:54AM (#46127461) Homepage

    You can overwrite the drive 50 times and you can not be certain that the data is unrecoverable.

    Actually, this is an old myth, which had some truth to it when hard disk weren't operating at the known physical limits. Then you could actually read some erased information by using a more sensitive magnetic head, which was able to tell the difference between a former one overwritten by zero and a former zero overwritten by zero. But this is no longer so. Any reserves that might have been in the magnetic surface of disk are now used to increase information density. The most sensitive reading heads available are those already built into the hard disks. Overwrite a section of the disk with zeros (or ones, whatever you like), and you can be sure that the information formerly there is safely overwritten.

  • by Hal_Porter (817932) on Saturday February 01, 2014 @02:08PM (#46129097)

    One of the -false- accusations against wikileaks was their undiscriminate leaking of classified documents.

    False?

    http://download.cabledrum.net/... [cabledrum.net]

    Interviewer: "So come on, redactions are going on at the same time, now there is
    or isn't a row going on about redaction, I haven't the faintest clue
    whether there is or isn't...?

    Mr Assange: No, there's no row going on about redactions at all....There was a
    group of reports where although they were not really intelligence
    informants there were sort of hotline tips...something called threat
    reports comprised one in five of the Afghan War Logs and so we held
    them back for a line by line redaction...But what we didn't do was
    redact one in five lines, putting black marker through it, we just
    removed them, and so it looked like we hadn't redacted everything but
    in fact we had redacted a fifth of all material, and this permitted an
    attack, a political attack, to come from The Times of London.... So The
    Times did a proxy war on The Guardian through us by attacking us....
    So most of those names were meant to be there, it is right for
    them to be published, it is right to publish the names of
    politicians, generals bureaucrats, etc, who are involved in this
    sort of activity, it is right even to publish the names of corrupt radio
    stations in Kabul that were taking SYOPS programme content. It is
    also right to publish the names of those people who have been
    killed and murdered and who need to be investigated and it is
    right to publish the names of all incidental characters who
    themselves are not at serious and probable risk of physical harm.
    Those incidental characters are someone who owns a company for
    example is just involved in shipping operations.... So then there is the
    question were there any sort of villagers or so on who gave
    information that might lead to reprisals, were there some of those?
    Um there were some villagers who - who had given information,
    um so that is a regrettable oversight, but it is not our, not merely
    our oversight it was the oversight of the United States military
    who should've never included that material and who falsely
    classified it, and who then made it available to everyone and it
    then got out."

    Assange never wanted to redact but was forced his media partners. Then he published the full unredacted cables on wikileaks' website. Which they denounced

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/worl... [bbc.co.uk]

    In a joint statement, the Guardian, El Pais, New York Times and Der Spiegel said they "deplore the decision of WikiLeaks to publish the unredacted state department cables, which may put sources at risk".

    And before you mention the password that appeared in David Leigh's book that was supposed to be for a temporary copy of the archive

    http://www.theguardian.com/med... [theguardian.com]

    WikiLeaks claimed its disclosure was prompted after conflicts between Assange and former WikiLeaks associates led to one highlighting an error made months before. When passing the documents to the Guardian, Assange created a temporary web server and placed an encrypted file containing the documents on it. The Guardian was led to believe this was a temporary file and the server would be taken offline after a period of hours.

    However, former WikiLeaks staff member Daniel Domscheit-Berg, who parted acrimoniously with WikiLeaks, said instead of following standard security precautions and creating a temporary folder, Assange instead re-used WikiLeaks's "master password". This password was then unwittingly placed in the Guardian's book on the embassy cables, which was pu

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