The best citation I can give is from Overwriting Hard Drive Data: The Great Wiping Controversy, which was published as part of the 4th International Conference on Information Systems Security, ICISS 2008. You can view the full text of the paper by viewing the book on Google Books, and jumping to page 243.
The following excerpt is from their conclusion:
The purpose of this paper was a categorical settlement to the controversy surrounding the misconceptions involving the belief that data can be recovered following a wipe procedure. This study has demonstrated that correctly wiped data cannot reasonably retrieved even if it of a small size or found only over small parts of the hard drive. Not even with the use of a MFM or other known methods. The belief that a tool can be developed to retrieve gigabytes or terabytes of data of information from a wiped drive is in error.
Although there is a good chance of recovery for any individual bit from a drive, the chance of recovery of any amount of data from a drive using an electron microscope are negligible. Even speculating on the possible recovery of an old drive, there is no likelihood that any data would be recoverable from the drive. The forensic recovery of data using electron microscopy is infeasible. This was true both on old drives and has become more difficult over tine. Further, there is a need for the data to have been written and then wiped on a raw unused drive for there to be any hopy of any level of recovery even at the bit level, which does not reflect real situations. It is unlikely that a recovered drive will have not been used for a period of time and the interaction of defragmentation, file copies and general use that overwrites data areas negates any chance of data recovery. The fallacy that data can be forensically recovered using an electron microscope or related means needs to be put to rest.
NIST also seem to agree. In NIST SP 800-88, they state the following:
Studies have shown that most of today’s media can be effectively cleared by one overwrite.
Purging information is a media sanitization process that protects the confidentiality of information against a laboratory attack. For some media, clearing media would not suffice for purging. However, for ATA disk drives manufactured after 2001 (over 15 GB) the terms clearing and purging have converged.
As such, I'd say that data remanence on modern hard drives is a complete myth, and it's likely to be infeasible for old drives too.
So, as a quick set of bullet points:
- You might be able to extract individual bits after a single overwrite, but not any useful amount of data.
- It is entirely infeasible to recover any data, even at the bit level, from a wiped disk area outside lab conditions, due to the effects of day-to-day use (file copies, etc).
- A single overwrite, for all intents and purposes, provides complete protection against useful data recovery.