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In a scenario where a person wants to give away their device (magnetic disk included), leaving the disk usable for the receiver, how might that person go about destroying ALL data (except firmware) on the disk only via a digital medium? Encryption is not an answer, because the disk needs to be used by the receiver. Assume no encryption was used before.

  • Is one zero pass enough?
  • Is one random pass enough?
  • If not, then what method should be used?
  • Can the same method be effective for an electronic disk?

under the assumption that the adversary is theoretically able to exercise any technique to recover the data

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To an extent, you have to choose which option is best for you given your individual situation such as how important it is that the information does not fall into someone else's hands and whether you are anticipating that any skilled person will be trying to get at it.

The most secure option would be not to give away the hard drive at all and, perhaps, supply a new one with the device instead. You can retain or destroy the existing drive.

Barring that, the current guidelines from NIST are to use the drive's own secure erase method, which in modern drives should be accessible as a command that the host can run over the SATA or SCSI connection. Previous assumptions underpinning erase methods that relied on writing zeroes or random data did not take into account newer surface mapping technologies which may be in use in newer drives in which at some times in their life not all of the surface may be mapped to a logical sector accessible from the host computer.

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