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Now On Video: GCHQ Destroying Laptop Full of Snowden Disclosures

timothy posted about 10 months ago | from the ask-not-what-your-country-can-destroy-for-you dept.

United Kingdom 237

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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Such documents trove (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46126813)

Such documents trove belongs to ThePirateBay (and everyone of us).

Re:Such documents trove (3, Insightful)

tinkerton (199273) | about 10 months ago | (#46127363)

No actually, having a journalistic intermediary that does vetting and filtering is a better approach. One of the -false- accusations against wikileaks was their undiscriminate leaking of classified documents.

Wasn't this a movie? (2, Funny)

Eyeball97 (816684) | about 10 months ago | (#46126815)

Oh, wait... I think it was books they were burning in the movie... Or people... Maybe both...

Re:Wasn't this a movie? (2, Insightful)

erikkemperman (252014) | about 10 months ago | (#46126879)

Godwin in 6 minutes, well done.

Look, I agree that this is a pretty bad transgression on the part of British government, but let's keep a bit of perspective.

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.

So this is a message, the presence of cameras confirms it. On the one hand to the assorted press, watch your step. On the other hand to their US counterparts, sorry about this chaps we've got your back.

Which is a dick move, to be sure, but not quite the holocaust yet.

Re:Wasn't this a movie? (4, Informative)

Eyeball97 (816684) | about 10 months ago | (#46126921)

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

Re:Wasn't this a movie? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46126945)

Nobody expects the Spanish Godwin.

Re:Wasn't this a movie? (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | about 10 months ago | (#46126971)

There goes the Vol de Mort subscription.

Re:Wasn't this a movie? (1)

erikkemperman (252014) | about 10 months ago | (#46126993)

Fair enough. Still, this story hardly warrants the comparison with book burning, certainly not with people burning, IMHO. Also, just curious, which movie were you thinking of?

Re:Wasn't this a movie? (1)

pushing-robot (1037830) | about 10 months ago | (#46127015)

This? [youtube.com]

Re:Wasn't this a movie? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46127125)

You're forcing us to click the link to see what movie you are talking about.

Re:Wasn't this a movie? (2)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | about 10 months ago | (#46127143)

There should be a f451/Orwell godwin

Re:Wasn't this a movie? (3, Informative)

Tom (822) | about 10 months ago | (#46126977)

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:Wasn't this a movie? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46127047)

The files are encrypted, wouldn't that make it much harder to recover after rewriting the storage? Seriously asking, I honestly don't know the answer.

Re:Wasn't this a movie? (2)

Tom (822) | about 10 months ago | (#46127201)

That's a good question. It depends on what the original files were. I'll have to do some extrapolation, since I don't do low-level forensics, so if someone wants to correct me, feel free.

When you run data recovery on an overwritten medium, you are usually able to recover at least parts of the data. Depending on file formats, that may or may not allow you to recover parts of the data.

Imagine, for example, that you are able to recover 80% of the bytes in a file. For a textfile, that pretty much means you have it. Every 5th letter (statistically, of course) will be garbage, but in most cases that is easy to compensate for:

Imag_ne, _or e_ampl_, th_t yo_ are_able_to r_over_ 80%_of t_e byt_s ...

But if you have a compressed file, then those lost bytes often make decompression hard or impossible. That is true for both external compressions (.zip) and internal compressions (as in many image formats). In most cases, you can recover parts of the file, but the chunks missing will be much larger than the 20% of bytes you are missing.

The same goes for encryption, but it depends on which encryption you use. A block cipher, for example, would probably result in the same result as an image file, with individual blocks unrecoverable.

Re:Wasn't this a movie? (4, Informative)

phantomfive (622387) | about 10 months ago | (#46127209)

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.

Re:Wasn't this a movie? (2)

martin-boundary (547041) | about 10 months ago | (#46127205)

The NSA has backdoors into the major encryption systems, for example in RSA products. So recovery is basically trivial, if you rely on any products sold or provided by Microsoft, Apple, Google, etc. Every large US company in fact has too much to lose if they don't cooperate with the NSA, so pick any company where it makes sense for the NSA to put backdoors in. If that company still exists today, then you can conclude that it has a secret deal with the NSA to spy on its customers.

Re:Wasn't this a movie? (2)

tftp (111690) | about 10 months ago | (#46127059)

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.

To rephrase: It's relatively easy to ensure that this HDD does not store any data. However it is nearly impossible to ensure that this data is not stored on any HDD.

Re:Wasn't this a movie? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46127099)

it is nearly impossible to ensure that this data is not stored on any HDD.

Destroying the planet will be sufficient, as long as no one has transmitted the data offworld yet.

Re:Wasn't this a movie? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46127141)

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.

Translation---- Arrogant to fact, there are several copies of these files. And the GCHQ are complete idiots, and the mere fact they created a video of the destruction was a pathetic attempt at warning British whistle blowers what would happen if you cross the US.

I'm really scared and I'm shaken in my shoes!!!!!

How can this be modded??? Complete destruction of any electronic device, [Hard Drive] ensures no data transferred, when the data originated from another device, or was copied!! You do know you can make several copies of any electronic right?

Sorry for the sarcasm, but this only shows how simple minded /. users have become................

Re:Wasn't this a movie? (1)

Tom (822) | about 10 months ago | (#46127185)

Seems the allow brain-dead people on this site now. :-)

If you want to reliably destroy the data on one particular storage medium, then physical destruction is the way to go.

This is totally apart from the question of whether or not other copies exist, it's a tangential issue. Funny how everyone except one troll who was intentionally looking for an axe to grind clearly got that meaning.

Re:Wasn't this a movie? (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about 10 months ago | (#46127277)

Re attempt at warning British whistle blowers what would happen if you cross the US.
This also happened in Australia with a book chapter on the Iraq and a hard-drive destroyed.
http://www.igis.gov.au/annual_... [igis.gov.au]
"After the sensitive elements were deleted (but only those elements), each concerned person was given the choice of having the copy of their hard-drive (on a
government supplied disk) destroyed in front of them. In some instances this offer was accepted. The purpose of such visible destruction was, I am told, to provide assurance to the person that the government was not retaining any of the information the person had on their computers.
As you will note, the process was managed by the Attorney-General’s Department. That department is not within my jurisdiction."
The option is to be as chilling and direct - in the UK, Australia, the USA now hinting at
"Guardian journalists could face criminal charges over Edward Snowden leaks"
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/new... [telegraph.co.uk]
Your slowly seeing the same panicked mind set at the digital level of a 1980's Polish gov with issues they can no longer bribe, jail, control, spin, twist or sock puppet.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

Re:Wasn't this a movie? (5, Interesting)

thegarbz (1787294) | about 10 months ago | (#46127181)

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

That hasn't been true for about 20 years now. Overwrite your data once and it's gone. Even if you don't overwrite it randomly no data recovery group have been shown to be capable of recovering overwritten data even in the face of great monetary incentive.

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

Yes but it has nothing to do with data possibly being recoverable. It's entirely to do with removing all doubt if a procedure has been applied. If you look at a drive you have no way of knowing if the data has been wiped or if there's anything recoverable on it. If you look at small shards of what's left of a drive then there's no doubt. It doesn't mean that other methods aren't equally secure, just harder to administrate.

Re:Wasn't this a movie? (1)

hankwang (413283) | about 10 months ago | (#46127289)

Overwrite your data once and it's gone. Even if you don't overwrite it randomly no data recovery group have been shown to be capable of recovering overwritten data

That's if you want the data to be overwritten and you're the owner of the drive. If you want to delete data on someone else's drive, you would have to ensure that the drive does not have some custom firmware installed that messes with the overwriting process...

Re:Wasn't this a movie? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46127405)

That hasn't been true for about 20 years now. Overwrite your data once and it's gone.

Unless you have an SSD or anything else with smart firmware and more storage space than advertised. Physical destruction always worked, works currently and will always work in the future and no software/firmware/hardware hack will survive it. Done right it is also a lot quicker to do.

Re:Wasn't this a movie? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#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 ...

Re: Wasn't this a movie? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46127259)

The drives had Windows on them and destroying them was the only way to be sure that it wasn't recoverable.

Re:Wasn't this a movie? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46127025)

It was an attempt to bully the press into submission, pure and simple.

Re:Wasn't this a movie? (2)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 10 months ago | (#46127361)

It was actually just Cameron being his usual thick-as-shit self. He requested that the drives be destroyed personally, apparently not realizing or understanding how little effect it would have. In fact it most likely had the opposite effect, ensuring that more material and this kind of negative publicity was put out. He really is a dumb fuck sometimes.

No more bombshells? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46126823)

Is this the end of the leaks then? No smoking gun?

Re:No more bombshells? (5, Funny)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 10 months ago | (#46126841)

Not from that particular copy of the data.

Re:No more bombshells? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46127091)

So basically No 10 Downing Street are morons.

Re:No more bombshells? (1)

erikkemperman (252014) | about 10 months ago | (#46126845)

Is this the end of the leaks then? No smoking gun?

No, just a bunch of smoking HDs. But seriously, a "smoking gun" is what you need in a case where the evidence is thus far not conclusive. In this case, however, I don't know of anything Snowden released which has been denied by officials and much of it has been confirmed or corroborated by others.

This Week on Masterpiece Theater (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46126831)

Great another show for America to copy from the UK. You know the American version will be totally lame

Re:This Week on Masterpiece Theater (1)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | about 10 months ago | (#46126859)

At least the US version will explain that GCHQ means "Government Communications Headquarters" i.e.: the Brit version (SIGINT) of the NSA. Also, guaranteed no boobies, so win/win.

Re:This Week on Masterpiece Theater (1)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | about 10 months ago | (#46127241)

At least the US version will explain that GCHQ means "Government Communications Headquarters" i.e.: the Brit version (SIGINT) of the NSA. Also, guaranteed no boobies, so win/win.

I don't understand your comment, and how you are applying your sarcasm. Are you saying guaranteed boobies are a bit win or aren't a big win? Because I think they are a big win.

Re:This Week on Masterpiece Theater (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46126923)

Is that equally true when our shows are 'copied' over there, like Law & Order?

Re:This Week on Masterpiece Theater (1)

Mister Transistor (259842) | about 10 months ago | (#46126925)

Yeah, but at least it won't be starring fucking Ricky Gervais!

Re:This Week on Masterpiece Theater (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46127033)

I like the US version of 'the office' more (the UK version is just so depressing), i like US version of 'life on mars' more than the UK version.

Re:This Week on Masterpiece Theater (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46127211)

Even with that seriously lame ending? Couldn't even get that right, it was just a stupid fucking pun.

What about the copies? (2)

turrican (55223) | about 10 months ago | (#46126833)

I'm sure those are locked away safely.

Re:What about the copies? (4, Funny)

bob_super (3391281) | about 10 months ago | (#46126847)

Nope, through computum entanglement, destroying the south bridge of the PC which had held the hard drive also destroyed all the copies.
Quantum mechanics is a bit too complex for us peons, just trust the govt on this one.

Re:What about the copies? (5, Informative)

Immerman (2627577) | about 10 months ago | (#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.

Re:What about the copies? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46127073)

Obviously, it worked.

Captcha: unionize

Saving face? (5, Interesting)

txoof (553270) | about 10 months ago | (#46126837)

What the hell was that? They threatened to shut down the Guardian if the media wasn't handed over; it appears though that they didn't have the balls to go through with the threat. Instead they came up with this bizarre compromise that involved 'destroying' the data. Why do this? Was it just a way for the government to save face and not have to back down from some crazy ass redline that threw out there? They must know that the files were immediately duplicated and spread around the world. That was by far one of the strangest things I've ever seen a newspaper do.

Re:Saving face? (2)

_Shad0w_ (127912) | about 10 months ago | (#46126863)

I suspect The Guardian was mostly thinking "Sure, we'll play along with your little pantomime. It's not like it's actually going to make any difference." I suspect the technicians from GCHQ were thinking the same as well. Possibly with a side thought of "Well, it gets us out of Cheltenham for a day at least".

Re:Saving face? (2)

DaHat (247651) | about 10 months ago | (#46126949)

More broadly, the UK lacks the same (or comparable) legal protections of the press & free speech that the US has via our First Amendment.

Re:Saving face? (4, Insightful)

Tom (822) | about 10 months ago | (#46126969)

I'm so tired of hearing that.

The laws are different over here in Europe, yes. But bland statements like the above just make me cringe. Some rights are stronger in the US, some are stronger in Europe, and it even differs by country.

And then there's the law on the one hand and enforcement on the other. The NSA didn't exactly get much opposition from Google, Microsoft and everyone else they've tapped into, did they? That's not new or "post 9/11", either. If you read up on the history of the NSA, you'll find that in the early days they went to the telegraph companies and without a court order they got copies of every telegraph message leaving or entering the USA.

Re:Saving face? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46127029)

The difference between Europe and the US *is* important though. You'll note that the US government has not dared to even suggest censoring the New York Post.

Re:Saving face? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46127131)

You'll note that the US government has not dared to even suggest censoring the New York Post.

Whist you will notice that the UK government has not dared to suggest that reading the newspaper might cause you to lose your security clearance. Both equally stupid.

Re:Saving face? (2)

Tom (822) | about 10 months ago | (#46127177)

Just as the laws differ, so do the horrible things the government does. Yeah, the GCHQ went to the Guardian to get a computer destroyed. Meanwhile, Obama will have you killed by a drone. And while there is armed military at London's airports, they don't have a TSA.

Really want to continue comparisons?

Re:Saving face? (2)

_Shad0w_ (127912) | about 10 months ago | (#46127283)

There are very rarely armed military personnel at UK airports. Them being there is highly unusual and worthy of comment. The uniformed armed people you usually see at UK airports are regular armed police. Although that itself is unusual in a national context (though not at airports); our police aren't routinely armed (it's in fact a specialization you have to qualify for).

Re:Saving face? (0)

JockTroll (996521) | about 10 months ago | (#46127295)

Keep making comparisons. There are lot of countries that are better than the US or UK. You can bite each other cocks off, for all I care. Just keep your filth home.

Re:Saving face? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46127113)

Given its history, I think of the US Constitution as more a statement of good intent than any sort of iron clad protection or inalienable rights.

I mean, pretty well EVERY time the US has been stressed (by war, by politics, by circumstances) the Constitution and its amendments have been set aside, only for the Supreme Court or whatever to revisit the situation 10 or 20 years down the track (long after the damage has been done) to reinstate said rights and privileges ... after which everybody apologizes to those so affected, and the next breach of the Constitution occurs.

The point is that unless such laws are rigorously enforced (and if they were Edward Snowden would be immune from prosecution, the Nisei would never have been imprisoned, McCarthyisim wouldn't have been able to conduct its witchhunts, and hundreds of other breaches of th Constitution wouldn't have occurred over the last 2 centuries), and unless the US Court system is immune to political and social realities and enforces the Constitution literally, dogmatically and as a semantic problem ... then these breaches will regularly occur, the rights of US individuals will regularly be trampled on (as is the case with the CONTINUING NSA breaches) and the Constitution will essentially mrerley be a statement of good intent.

Re:Saving face? (1)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | about 10 months ago | (#46127263)

The problem is that the constitution is upheld by the supreme court, who only have the power to review actions once they've already occurred. So there can't be any constitutional violations to find until after the constitution has been violated! The only other solution is minority report.

Re:Saving face? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46126883)

Welcome to people who don't understand technology and are given control over people who do.

The files weren't destroyed, even one the platens the data can still be recovered that's not to mention the fact the files are freely available to anyone who wants to view them outside of the controls of those who think they have a monopoly on information.

The only way I can see this is show-boating, A display of power which says "Free speech" Is nothing, we control what you say and if you disagree we will smash your hardware too.

Wake Up USA! this is what happened before the rise of the Third Reich.

Re:Saving face? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46126897)

I assume they actually went into Windows and deleted the files first.

Re:Saving face? (1)

atomicxblue (1077017) | about 10 months ago | (#46126887)

If I were them, I'd call their bluff... I'm sure it would be a major backlash worldwide because it would be seen as censoring what the press could report.

Re:Saving face? (1)

Mister Transistor (259842) | about 10 months ago | (#46126935)

It is to lose; all the gov't needs to do is recite those magic words "National Security", and they can do pretty much whatever they want. Who can stop them?

Re:Saving face? (2, Insightful)

BlueStrat (756137) | about 10 months ago | (#46127031)

Who can stop them?

Me.

You.

All of us together.

If they kill all of us, they won't have anyone to make their tea.

Strat

Re:Saving face? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46127175)

If they kill all of us, they won't have anyone to make their tea.

Now that's funny right there.

Re:Saving face? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46127381)

What the hell was that? They threatened to shut down the Guardian if the media wasn't handed over; it appears though that they didn't have the balls to go through with the threat. Instead they came up with this bizarre compromise that involved 'destroying' the data. Why do this? Was it just a way for the government to save face and not have to back down from some crazy ass redline that threw out there? They must know that the files were immediately duplicated and spread around the world.

That was by far one of the strangest things I've ever seen a newspaper do.

Yet again it seems I'm the only one who's not ignorant. Now, you need to look at this from the government's perspective:

First, the physical files were a political bargaining chip, yes ridiculous to use against media, but one must play every trick at one's disposal.

Secondly, we know how things like truecrypt or unpartitioned drive space work. The data you can see from the OS may not be all the data there is. Destroying the hardware is the only way to be sure that they don't get a message from Snowden or someone who handled the files, or their deadman-switch saying, "Mount the drive space at LBA34 to 1023 as a FAT16 partition using this truecrypt key to access more unredacted / undisclosed files..." Even if you delete a file with a "file shredder" program it could still be there if the drive decided to swap that sector out for a spare. Standard (moronic) sector alignment strategies employed by OSs sometimes leave kilobytes, whole "tracks", or even close to a megabyte of free space (moronic because LBA has been virtualized by drives since the 90's, hell, all versions of DOS and Windows up to 95 had an error where they couldn't use all 1024 heads, so BIOS wrapped the read/write call and modified CHS mapping on the fly -- All you DBA's thinking "track alignment" was important have been fucking wrong since you started doing it). Not saying that anyone found a particularly heinous bit of data and squirrelled it away thus, or that they wouldn't have other avenues for copying / hiding the file, but if you're the government why take a chance just in case its the last place you didn't destroy that screws you.

Lastly, if you've been keeping up with the capabilities that the NSA and likely the GCHQ have regarding malware, esp. firmware malware, you might not sound so ridiculous when assuming that there was no data in those systems that neither the Guardian didn't know about, and that the spy agencies have a vested interest in not having discovered. Think about it: That's the first thing you'd do as a government spy agency some data leaked, eh? You'd try to infect the target system and exfiltrate the files to see exactly what your "enemy" knows. It might not be a huge deal now, but if forensic tear-down of the system discovered the spy agencies had their fingers in the media outlet's firmware then that would be more bad PR and also tip their hand that they knew what all the disclosures would be, and could start working towards pre-emptively disclosing some things... gee, just like the world's spy agencies have done since, eh?

I swear, you're doomed. You can lead a mind to information, but you can't make it think.

Motherboards (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46126875)

They just looked like idiots, destroying not only HDs but also... motherboards! do the really think there will be confidental information stored in motherboards?

Re:Motherboards (2, Interesting)

Mister Transistor (259842) | about 10 months ago | (#46126953)

It's just a stupid as the US response taking out and replacing every part of every computer and network that Snowden accessed.

I mean, really - the CAT-5? Come on. Just a stupid excuse for work and so that they can claim "Oh he did millions of $$ damages, see we had to replace everything including a new coat of paint on the data center".

Absolute tripe.

Re:Motherboards (5, Insightful)

Tom (822) | about 10 months ago | (#46126999)

It's just a stupid as the US response taking out and replacing every part of every computer and network that Snowden accessed.

Disagree. No matter what you think of the NSA, in the whole circus they are one of the few people who actually know their stuff. These guys are scary good at what they do. If I had to clean up a place that was bugged by the NSA, I'd do the same - rip out everything and replace it.

You can buy keyloggers that fit into a USB plug these days. I'm pretty sure the NSA has stuff like Ethernet monitors that fit into slightly-larger-than-usual CAT-5 plugs. And if you consider the size of Raspberry Pi, you'll realize that you can fit a whole second computer into the case of another computer.

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.

This is the same, just in hardware.

Re:Motherboards (1)

FlyHelicopters (1540845) | about 10 months ago | (#46127037)

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.

Depending on the nature of the server, I'd be tempted to replace the hardware as well and shred the old stuff as well.

Formatting a hard drive doesn't really remove everything, even a "secure" erase isn't the same thing as simply buying a new one.

Re:Motherboards (4, Informative)

deconfliction (3458895) | about 10 months ago | (#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)

Re:Motherboards (1)

Tom (822) | about 10 months ago | (#46127227)

That, as well as the other comment much to the same, is very true.

However, it depends on your threat scenario. If you are the victim of a regular hack, i.e. someone gained entry over the network, then you know your hardware is unchanged, so you can keep it. That is the scenario I was referring to. If, of course, someone physically broke into your server room, you should mistrust your hardware unless you know exactly what they did and didn't do (say you have a video that you know was not tampered with).

I don't think much of Microsoft as anyone who's been following me on /. knows, but they have a good set of rules [microsoft.com] which includes "If a bad guy has unrestricted physical access to your computer, it's not your computer anymore".

Re:Motherboards (1)

edjs (1043612) | about 10 months ago | (#46127117)

If I had to clean up a place that was bugged by the NSA, I'd do the same - rip out everything and replace it.

I'd be tempted to torch the place for the insurance money and move.

Re:Motherboards (2)

dcollins117 (1267462) | about 10 months ago | (#46127139)

Disagree. No matter what you think of the NSA, in the whole circus they are one of the few people who actually know their stuff.

If that were true, Snowden wouldn't have been able to access and distribute the sensitive security documents he did and we wouldn't be talking about this at all. Doesn't seem they are particularly competent with regards to security to me.

Re:Motherboards (1)

Tom (822) | about 10 months ago | (#46127207)

competent != perfect

If you run an organisation of this size, you have security holes, period. There is no such thing as perfect security, and everyone knows it (though some snake-oil sellers pretend otherwise).

Re:Motherboards (2)

_Shad0w_ (127912) | about 10 months ago | (#46127331)

Yes he would, because his job and vetting level allowed him unsupervised access to materials at that level of protection. The flaw in their system was either their vetting - I have no idea if there was anything in Snowden's past that should have given them a reason to consider him unreliable - or that his access was unsupervised.

The problem with requiring supervised access to materials or infrastructure you (potentially) routinely access as part of your job is you've just doubled (at least) the number of people you need to do anything. Basically any system of security is going to require that at some point you have to trust people, otherwise the entire system becomes an unworkable nightmare and no-one can get anything done.

Re:Motherboards (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 10 months ago | (#46127221)

These guys are scary good at what they do. If I had to clean up a place that was bugged by the NSA, I'd do the same - rip out everything and replace it.

And dig up the foundation.

Re:Motherboards (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46126959)

But...but... looks like they made sure the cooling fans were destroyed too.... one never knows the data that can reside on those fan coils!!!

Re:Motherboards (1)

jones_supa (887896) | about 10 months ago | (#46127153)

I suppose you could use the fan tachometer wire to read some arbitrary data stored on that fan.

Moronic. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46126877)

I'm dumbfounded.

Why on earth would GCHQ and/or the government want to show us so clearly that they are complete morons?

I might assume they are not and that there was some deep purpose to this display of idiocy but I don't see it.

Re:Moronic. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46127009)

because non-technical people( and I use that term loosely) Have no idea how data is store, they look at the video and say yes! now the data is gone. A more effective video would be a technician running a Dban wipe though the HDD but far less dramatic

Re:Moronic. (2)

sce7mjm (558058) | about 10 months ago | (#46127083)

Definitely agree.
I had a mate who's hard disk whose laptop wouldn't boot.
He wanted to get all the personal data of it photos business accounts etc. so opened it up and took out the RAM and the the WIFI Card. And left them in his wood burner for a couple of days.

He then gave me the laptop.

I gave him back his hard drive and bought new ram and a wifi card.
And told him to speak to me first next time.

Re:Moronic. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46127147)

The RAM and WiFi were the most easily removed components and he's a lazy sod?

Re:Moronic. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46127155)

Maybe treaty compliance and the clear ability to blame the Americans? They probably have agreements which say they should use their full powers to destroy copies of classified information. In other words, "security theatre" but the audience is the US security establishment. Not really us.

Clearly that info could undo the US Government (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46126893)

It makes you wonder what atrocities it contains

Re:Clearly that info could undo the US Government (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46127135)

Broken treaties with Native Americans?!

Stupidity at it's finest. (1)

AbRASiON (589899) | about 10 months ago | (#46126957)

For many many reasons but I post for one you'd be surprised at.
http://hardware.slashdot.org/c... [slashdot.org]

People continue to do this stupid shit to perfectly good hardware, sure it's symbolic in this case to prove a point, none the less any of us here with a fucking grain of common sense realise it's a load of complete shit.

That data could've been copied 10,000 times over from that machine by now (obviously)

Re:Stupidity at it's finest. (1)

_Shad0w_ (127912) | about 10 months ago | (#46127339)

A point the editor even made to the Select Committee. In fact he straight out told them it had been copied elsewhere.

Saturdays and coffee. (1)

ExXter (1361251) | about 10 months ago | (#46126965)

Video Footage just covers the time from timestamp A to B... what happened before A (A-X) and after (B+Y) is not seen. On the other hand, what did those guys want to show? Fear?Moral?Believes? Truth has a way of its own, so destroying some disks will not change the fact that it already made it out once...

Non-storage parts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46126987)

Note that the "intelligence" agency destroyed all the components from the PC, and not just the hard/solid-state disks.

Something isn't adding up... (5, Funny)

sixshot (878181) | about 10 months ago | (#46127001)

I viewed the video and I read the related article... and it says here:

A small team of trusted senior reporters examined Snowden's files in a secure fourth-floor room in the Guardian's King's Cross office. The material was kept on four laptops. None had ever been connected to the internet or any other network. There were numerous other security measures, including round-the-clock guards, multiple passwords, and a ban on electronics.

Okay, 4 laptops are fine. So why does the video show a desktop keyboard? And why is there a completely destroyed ATX desktop motherboard shown there?

Re:Something isn't adding up... (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about 10 months ago | (#46127321)

The 'computer' was mentioned at 0.49 "drill out the hard disks" at 1.13 at 1.49 "computers"... I would guess some form of a working 'copy' on a desktop computer to be used with by staff in the room. From that internal redacted material could be made ready for publication vs the original material on laptops.

Re:Something isn't adding up... (1)

donaldm (919619) | about 10 months ago | (#46127379)

Okay, 4 laptops are fine. So why does the video show a desktop keyboard? And why is there a completely destroyed ATX desktop motherboard shown there?

OK That will teach me to read the article.

You are dead right, why a keyboard and possibly a PS/2 keyboard (do modern laptops support this connector any-more? Some other things that don't make sense is the tower PC power supply and the huge fans (I would love to see how they got them in a laptop). Also while we are at it how did they get a standard PC motherboard in a laptop.

As for grinding the boards well words fail me. I suppose that is a bit like destroying RAM especially when we all know those sneaky little bits can hide in the IC's (grin). I especially liked the reply the editor made when he said "po...." and changed his mind. Actually if you wish to destroy a PC (laptop or otherwise) then pack it full of "thermite", light it and the result would be much more interesting, good grief you could even sell tickets.

Then grind the editors. (1)

sethstorm (512897) | about 10 months ago | (#46127019)

If they can't be assured that destroying the machines will do it, then take it one step further. If they don't quit it, they'll learn how deep and quick of an exfoliation can come from an angle grinder.

If it makes The Guardian actually complain, then you know you're doing the right thing.

old news (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46127021)

I don't know why I come to this site anymore.

Re:old news (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46127071)

For the low quality trolling?

Gaynigs eating hot grits blah blah blah whatever.

Herding wildcats in a burning barn.... (5, Insightful)

rts008 (812749) | about 10 months ago | (#46127049)

Yes, let us NOW close the barn doors after the cats have escaped.....that will stop the cats from escaping!

From my view(USA), the U.K. seems to be following in our footsteps with afterburners engaged.

I remember when everyone was claiming computers would make life easier. LOL! Paperless offices FTW!
(don't misunderstand; I like computers and networks, but from the beginning, I have always questioned the implementation of them as it occurred...one of the reasons why I don't own a cell phone, and studied networking so I could protect some of my privacy, just as I studied driving a vehicle before driving)

The cat is out of the bag/barn door, the best thing for the gov't.s involved is to admit it and make acceptable changes, but don't hold your breath waiting.

The question now is:
Do we fight this crap, or grease up our bungholes and take like a good consumer?(we are no longer citizens or customers...just livestock consuming the crap corp.'s and their bitches(gov't) shovel out.

If you use the term 'consumer' for anything outside of eating and drinking, or physically using something to depletion, then you are part of the problem by accepting this crap.

Consume various media?
I have NEVER eaten or drank an music or video file, I've watched/listened to them, and THEY ARE STILL THERE! So I could not have consumed them.

This may seem like an offtopic rant, but the brainwash mentality is what makes this crap work.

We have gotten into a mindset from this tactic that makes this shite easier to swallow, because we get used to swallowing shite. We have forgotten how to find out for ourselves, we WANT the 10 second soundbite because we are too busy swallowing the shite, to fit in with our shite swallowing peers.

I personally am too old, broken down, and poor to start the needed coup, but will gladly join in if it ever happens.

Here in the USA 20 years ago, if what happened under Bush jr.'s reign happened then, I would have started(or at least attempted) another revolution...strictly out of patriotic feelings for the oath I took to defend the Constitution of the USA, and Dubya and company would have been first against the wall to be shot as a traitor to the Constitution I pledged to uphold against enemies foreign and domestic.

Apparently, my peers are happy to have the following generations buggered, and now it's showing up.

In retrospect, I would include Obama and co. for not doing away with all of Bush/Cheney's constitutional violations.

As it stands, I will do everything within my power and ability to train and educate the younger generations to combat this crap.

Note to self: Quit posting when drinking!
  I meant everything above, but focus and eloquence decline severely when drinking!

Apologies if I sound like some butthurt old geezer, but I am one, due to the 'War on Drugs', 'War on terrorism', War on this', War on that', alcohol is my only outlet short of ending up on the evening news as some nutjob taken out by the local SWAT Team. :-)

OK, now all of you all, get off my lawn!
*chugs bottle of Geritol*

Re:Herding wildcats in a burning barn.... (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about 10 months ago | (#46127383)

Well the gov internet searches seem to be for locations, names and further digital contacts as 1 - 2 - 3 hops to and from the press for example.
The vast illegal domestic surveillance system is built like an elint overflight of the Soviet Union collecting everything it can.
Its their network, every keystroke you make is kept, sorted, indexed, filed, read by a real person if your on a list...
Build on that - read up all you can on the side of politics you find interesting and write long detailed emails to members of the press working on the stories.
Link them to material you have found, others working on the same stories .. detail is good, use your own email, lots of good grammar and keep all the technical words in.
Material found in old newspapers, new searches - pack in the local/national political intrigue over years.
Start to attend protests, anything local on any issue - drive in your own car, park near the event and stay the duration to ensure your photographed ect..
If asked for your ID....
Overtime you name will filter up in a few local and national databases - you will make new 'instant' friends at events who seem to share a lot of the same interests ...
Like a protester outside an East German Church watch the full power of the state in 2014 have to react to your walking around with a sign or HD camera or talking to the press...

another victory for freedom! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46127063)

Her Majesty must be so very proud of her loyal peons.

This was done to protect the Guardian as well (3, Funny)

sce7mjm (558058) | about 10 months ago | (#46127065)

I think the Guardian guy is being deliberately vague, since they now have evidence that they destroyed all of their copies.

They are now only going to report on the information that others are leaking.

It is PR for GCHQ and the Government, i.e. don't hold documents you know you shouldn't cos we'll smash your shit up.

It is part of the legal defence of the Guardian, "We aren't distributing this information, but are now free to report the information that others have released to the public"

By the way IANAL, it just seems like common sense to me.

Video Is Missing One Thing (1)

BlueStrat (756137) | about 10 months ago | (#46127085)

A "laugh track".

Just sayin'...

Strat

Re:Video Is Missing One Thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46127101)

Its actually quite good if you watch to the gungam style track.....

It has happened. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46127257)

This is f*cking scary

bread and games (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46127333)

So,
  all data is destroyed, so,
anything released since the destruction of the datacarriers is false, a
anything released since the destruction is a way to control the public, and yes, even the conspiracy nuts are part of the public which gets controlled....

panem et circenses

Headling is wrong (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 10 months ago | (#46127427)

GCHQ Destroying Laptop Full of Snowden Disclosures

As the summary actually makes clear, one of the interesting about this incident is that the Guardian editors opted to destroy the laptop themselves, instead of letting GCHQ do it.

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