Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.

4/23/2019

Throw Away Drives

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Never trust a Network Admin with a screwdriver,The Dark Side,The Day Job — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 7:00 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Please, be careful.

We tend to treat USB thumb drives as essentially disposable these days, which, considering their low cost, they basically are.  At least, in one sense.  The problem is, those cheap, little drives still store an awful lot of data.  I recently read an article titled “You left WHAT on that USB drive?!” where the authors talk about several studies, formal and informal, where researchers scooped up random USB drives, either from eBay or the lost and found, to see what was on them.  The results are a little terrifying.  According to the article, “…about two-thirds of second-hand USB memory sticks bought in the US and the UK have recoverable and sometimes sensitive data. In one-fifth of the devices studied, the past owner could be identified.”  What’s more, in the case of one study, out of 200 drives, only 34 of them had been properly wiped out.  That’s just 17% of the drives.  Several had been formatted, but still had data that could be recovered off them.  Yes, that’s right, even reformatting the drives does NOT guarantee that they will be properly wiped out.

What’s more, the data that was left behind was of a very sensitive nature in many cases.  Everything from tax information to naked photos to photos of a soldier on deployment and at home, including the soldier’s address.  And, again, reformatting is not enough.  At least 8 drives out of the 200 examined had been reformatted, but had data on them that could still be recovered!  So, what can be done?
Personally, I tend to use USB drives until they absolutely don’t work at all any more, and I try not to put personal data on them in any case.
One solution is to get a USB drive that can be encrypted.  I’ve used several versions of the LaCie Imakey that includes an encrypted partition and utilities to manage it, but that doesn’t seem to be available any more.  A replacement might be the Kingston Digital Data Traveler Locker, which lets you set a password to restrict access, as well as doing hardware encryption of some kind and even backing up to the cloud in case the drive gets lost.  Granted those drives can get a little pricey, but how much does it cost to deal with the potential identity theft that lax personal security might bring?

If you have drives, USB or otherwise, that you’re looking to get rid of, then at least sanitize them before they go.  There are a lot of articles and utilities available to help you with that.  One that covers pretty much every drive you might have is How to securely erase external hard drives, SD cards, or flash drives, which details the steps as well as suggesting utilities to help you.  Now, for the most part, I assume that if you read this blog, as opposed to my other blog, Use Your Words, then you’re a geek like me and can handle more than consumer-grade procedures and software.  If that’s the case, or you’re feeling particularly brave, one great utility I’ve used is Darik’s Boot and Nuke aka DBAN.  It’s a free ISO you can download to make a bootable disk/drive that will let you securely wipe a drive before disposing of it.  It’s simple to use and free, but if you’re not comfortable burning an ISO to a disk or thumbdrive, then I’d recommend getting a more consumer-friendly product.

Either way, it’s a scary world out there to let your precious data roam free without a keeper, so be careful with those cheap, “throw away” drives.  If you’re not careful how you use them, they could get pretty expensive.


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"The best thing about the future is that it comes only one day at a time."
   --Abraham Lincoln

4/4/2013

Backups and Data Recovery – Home Edition – Part 1

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Calamity, Cataclysm, and Catastrophe,Fun Work,Geek Work,Personal,Review — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:24 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

“Two is one and one is none”.

I’ve quoted that a lot over the years.  I’ve reminded people over and over again that just moving your data to an external drive is NOT a backup.  If you can’t afford to destroy it, then it’s not backed up.  I’ve said all those things.
And, yet, on Tuesday, I lost data because it wasn’t backed up.

As many long-time readers know, I’m an amateur photographer.  In the past five years, I have taken over 18,000 photographs.
On Tuesday evening, the network attached storage device, an [amazon_link id=”B004I3ZTU6″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]IOMega two terabyte personal cloud edition NAS[/amazon_link], to be exact, died.  Or, more specifically, the drive inside it died.  The sad thing was that I was preparing to copy it all to another device when it bit the dust.  Oh, sure, I still have a little over 4,000 of the best shots uploaded to my Flickr photostream, but, it’s not the same.  (I talked a little bit more about the backup portion and the loss over at my other site, JKHoffman.com)
So, here’s what I’ll be doing; First, I’m investigating the data recovery services of DataRetrieval.com and Second, I’ll be ordering two more large drives for my Pogoplug to store and backup my photos from here forward.

Let’s take these in reverse order.
I plan on adding a new feature to this blog called “Tools for Tuesday” which irregularly reviews various tools, software and hardware and even non-computer, that I’ve used and enjoyed over the years.  One of those early reviews will be of the fantastic Pogoplug.  In a nutshell, for those who aren’t familiar, this little beauty lets me attach up to four USB-based drives at a time to my network.  They can be any kind of USB drives I happen to have available.  Right now, I have two one-terabyte drives in generic enclosures hooked up to it.  They are set up as a master and a mirror drive.  In other words, one drive is where I put all my “stuff” and the Pogoplug automagically mirrors it to the second drive.
It’s really, really nice and when I have the right software installed on my various machines, I can map a drive to that device via the internet and upload to my own personal cloud in my server closet at home.  It’s very nice, albeit a little slow sometimes when I’m away from home.  Still, it’s private and reasonably secure and automatically backing itself up.  I’ve confirmed that two of these devices in separate locations can be used the same way, make a truly redundant mirror, if you really want to do that.  (I do, but I haven’t gotten around to getting the second Pogoplug and setting it up on another network somewhere.)
I really cannot convey how happy I have been with this setup.  I’m super, super impressed with this as a low-rent solution for the small or home business person, or, like me, the hardcore hobbyist.
So, by the time you all are reading this post, I’ll have ordered two three-terabyte USB drives of some kind.  And, clearly, I’ll be setting them up in a similar configuration as the ones I already have, so that one backs up the other.

I’m also sending my drive off to DataRetrieval.com to get an estimate on restoring the data.
I chose them because they had an office in Houston, and I like using local businesses.  Also, they sent me a free shipping label to send the drive to them to get an estimate, which I like.  And, yes, I did try several things to get the data back myself, including the ultimate hard drive “Hail Mary”; the “frozen drive” trick.  I only got as far as seeing the drive, but not being able to access any of the partitions.  And, based on the horrible clicking noise it was making, I’m pretty sure it’s going to take getting the platters out and mounted in their special recovery equipment to get the data off.
I’m choosing slow over expensive, so it may be a couple weeks before I hear back from them with an estimate.  And, depending on how pricey it gets, I may not even decide to follow through and have them recover it.  But, I have to admit, it really hurt to lose five years worth of my photography, even if I don’t really go back to the old stuff all that often.  Now, if I were a professional photographer, or a business owner, I’d pay through the nose to get that data back, but for me, it’s really not hugely important.  Still, I’ll be interested to see, and share, what the quote is and how it’s handled by the service techs at DataRetrieval.com

So, stay tuned!  I don’t know how long it will take, but I promise to do a Part 2 when I get the data recovery quote!


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."
   --Martin Luther King

11/5/2010

Gigabytes For Less

Filed under: Fun,Fun Work,Geek Work,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:14 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

I was going to share this right before Halloween, but something better came up, so consider this a “Halloween Chaser” to clear your palate.

If you’re like me, you have a lot of computer systems floating around and the one thing they all have in common is that they could use some more drive space.  So, again, if you’re like me, that means you end up buying all kinds of storage space, in one form or another, to meet that need.  Now, you can do it as economically as possible thanks to Gigs4Less.  No matter what kind of storage you need, from compact flash to hard drives, they list everything they can find on the web and sort it by price, price per megabyte, and any other way you can think of sorting it.
So stop wasting money and hit this site to find the biggest drive you can afford, for less!

And be safe out there trick or treating, okay, kids?


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