In this article from Privacy International, it indicates that when GCHQ undertook the task of destroying sensitive data on system belonging to the Guardian newspaper, in addition to the Storage media, they destroyed certain chips within the devices, amongst others chips relating to control of the Touchpad and keyboard.

So the question is, are there any known security reasons why these chips would need to be destroyed to prevent data recovery from a computing device?

  • I'm assuming this was because the chips might have a buffer/cache of event data, which might end up including passwords/input data for PRNG seeding (or that those doing the destruction believed they might). These could be larger than I'm guessing, so they might include more data (or that it just takes less data to be useful). Commented May 22, 2014 at 23:04

1 Answer 1

  • A keyboard controller is a logical place for a state-level attacker to put a keylogger. Designing a logging controller and placing it in a keyboard in place of the standard controller is beyond the resources of most attackers, but once placed, it's virtually impossible to spot.

  • A touchpad controller may record past mouse actions for calibration purposes, or, as above, it could be a mouse logger placed by a state-level attacker.

  • I have no idea why the inverting controller was destroyed. As a power-management device, it's unlikely to be on a data path, and recovering data from power fluctuations is difficult except in a highly controlled environment.

  • It makes you wonder whether they made a mistake by taking the inverter controller, if so, what were they meant to take? Commented May 23, 2014 at 9:02
  • Given the context, I don't think that government officials would worry about key loggers in the laptop except if THEY were the one who placed it there.
    – Stephane
    Commented May 23, 2014 at 12:51
  • Of course, let's not forget Hanlon's razor either.
    – Stephane
    Commented May 23, 2014 at 12:52
  • @Stephane, given the context, if I were in GCHQ, I'd be worried about the Russians, the Americans, and the Chinese all competing to place keyloggers in the laptops. Journalists often encounter sensitive information in the course of their work.
    – Mark
    Commented May 23, 2014 at 19:26

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