Skip to main content

UK Tried to Stop Snowden Stories by Smashing Hard Drives

Earlier this year, Edward Snowden leaked information about mass surveillance programs to the media. One of the newspapers responsible for breaking the Snowden stories was The Guardian in the UK. Snowden first talked to The Guardian's Glenn Greenwald in 2012 and Greenwald has covered the issue of mass surveillance extensively over the last few months. This past weekend, his partner David Miranda was detained in London's Heathrow Airport under schedule 7 of the UK's terror laws.

Miranda's laptop, phones, hard drives and camera were seized and, in a piece published in The Guardian, Alan Rusbridger sheds some light on why: David Miranda apparently helps Greenwald in the production of his stories. Miranda's nine-hour detention encouraged Rusbridger to share another story about the UK government and its attempts to prevent The Guardian from "informing the public about what the intelligence agencies, governments and corporations are up to."

Rusbridger says he was contacted by a senior UK official a couple of months ago. This official demanded the Guardian either turn over or destroy all of the material it had. Though he explained that the information in question was not exclusive to staff in the UK (in fact, most of its NSA stories were coming from New York), the UK government was undeterred. And so, members of the British Intelligence agency GHCQ visited The Guardian's offices and destroyed computers and hard drives relating to the Snowden saga.

"Whitehall was satisfied, but it felt like a peculiarly pointless piece of symbolism that understood nothing about the digital age," writes Rusbridger. "We will continue to do patient, painstaking reporting on the Snowden documents, we just won't do it in London."

  • fixxxer113
    Destroying HDDs is not pointless if you want to completely destroy files, it depends on how you handle the process. There are ways to check if certain files have been previously copied to other devices. If forensic experts checked for that prior to smashing the drives, then it was a smart move. It's the only way to make sure the data is actually gone. If they didn't check, it was stupid because they have no idea how many copies might exist.

    Of course there may be a way to make copies undetected, but I suppose that would take an expert also...

    I remember reading a digital video camera manual, that actually said something similar. If you want to delete videos and be sure that the data is destroyed, no method of deleting/formatting etc. is 100% safe. The manufacturer said that if you really want to be sure, you should take the HDD out of the camera and physically destroy it with something like a hammer. No joke, they actually proposed a hammer.
    Reply
  • joneb
    fixxxer113 even a hammer isnt an asured way of destroying a hard drive unless it is opened up and the actual disk inside is destroyed. There are infact professional machines with extremely powerful magnets that are the best chance of destroying them.
    Reply
  • fixxxer113
    11394857 said:
    fixxxer113 even a hammer isnt an asured way of destroying a hard drive unless it is opened up and the actual disk inside is destroyed. There are infact professional machines with extremely powerful magnets that are the best chance of destroying them.

    That's the point, smashing the platters to bits. Strong magnets work also, although they are harder to find. Large mechanical shredders are also a very satisfying way :P
    Reply
  • outlw6669
    Not at all surprising that the involved governments are going to great lengths to keep the extent of their domestic spying programs out of public view.
    It would be nice if there was some legal recourse that could be taken against these nanny states; changing politicians alone never seems to help >.<
    Reply
  • fixxxer113
    11394855 said:
    Snow den, Wikileaks,... All psychological operations of the CIA.

    Nice show for stupid public...

    Be careful, if you never see an end to the conspiracy layers, if you think the rabbit-hole has no bottom, you might go nuts. We might never find out who pulls the strings. But we can use the information we get to decide how we're going to live. The fact is that there are a lot of people that are absolutely clueless about these things. Even if Wikileaks and Snowden are not selfish idealists, at least through them, some people learn and are a bit more informed on issues like the existance of actual privacy in information.
    Reply
  • Someone Somewhere
    @Fixxxer

    Until there are dozens of other copies of those files in various countries around the world. Then it's really pointless.
    Reply
  • Chetou
    @fixxxer

    How would you check if a certain file on the HDD has been copied? Or if it itself is a billionth copy?
    Reply
  • fixxxer113
    11395111 said:
    @fixxxer

    How would you check if a certain file on the HDD has been copied? Or if it itself is a billionth copy?

    If you find out that certain files on the HDD have been copied to another location or device even once, then it's safe to assume that there are many copies already on the Internet. There are methods a forensics expert can use to find out what happened. There are logs that he has access to and tools that normal users don't have. You'd be suprised how much info there is about what happened in the past, on a storage device or even in a file itself.
    Reply
  • fixxxer113
    11395084 said:
    @Fixxxer

    Until there are dozens of other copies of those files in various countries around the world. Then it's really pointless.

    That's what I said. Read the whole post. In any case, you will want to destroy the files on that device too, so smashing it to bits is the only certain way.
    Reply
  • Someone Somewhere
    There are ways to check if certain files have been previously copied to other devices.
    Umm, not really. You check if I've booted off a live USB, mounted the drive in read only mode, and cloned it?

    The point was that when there are other copies you have no hope of removing, removing one is pointless.

    When you actually read the Guardian's article, they chose to destroy it themselves instead of handing it over. Not a case of being told to destroy it; it was 'give it to us', then 'we can't give it to you if it's non-existent'.
    Reply