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lecture: Data Demolition

Gone In 60 Seconds


Organizations know the importance of destroying retired physical data
storage units: the waste stream has the potential to be a major leak of
security-relevant information, to competitors, criminal organizations
and the public. Hackers have long appreciated the insights to be
gleaned through trashing! But the volumes of data stored today make
this process difficult to accomplish instantaneously, and data in the
wrong hands is money. If you manage data that might be at risk of
physical attack by criminal agents, could there be a way to ensure its
physical destruction in under 60 seconds at the flip of a switch? In
this research I investigate multiple paths to forensic-resistant
elimination of physical media via thermal, kinetic and high voltage
methods. Both magnetic and flash storage devices are investigated,
requiring the development of new techniques for high explosives
manufacture, delivery and encapsulation. Surprising results will be

The talk will begin with an introduction summarizing prior work and the
constraints of the challenge, as well as the current state of the art in
data storage and the way data storage units are industrially destroyed,
a process that is intensive in both labor (removal and transportation
of physical media) and time.

Several categories of irreversible destructive attack are then
presented and their individual goals and constraints delineated:

Thermal: plasma jet, pyrotechnic methods including injection of
oxidizing gas and various slurry and powder thermites;

Kinetic: explosive propellant and compressed air penetrators, 3D printed
high explosive shaped charges, cast lined shaped charges, explosive
blast containment and confinement techniques;

High voltage: attacks on SSDs using the exploding wire effect, ground
state elevation and inductive coupling attacks on metal encased drives.

This work is novel both from the standpoint of applying non-traditional
techniques to physical media destruction, and from the standpoint of
original research into destructive device fabrication: it contains
some of the first published (non-classified) work on 3D printing of
high explosive shaped charges.


Day: 2017-09-15
Start time: 20:45
Duration: 01:00


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