Erase thumbdrives and partitions with Macrorit Free Disk Wiper

Macrorit Free Disk Wiper is a portable Windows utility to securely wipe partitions, thumbdrives and external drives regardless of file system.  It can be a  useful program if you want to dispose of your computer hard drive or to have a new start after having used the drive to store sensitive documents. The program does not contain any adware or advertising and can be used for free for non commercial use.

You can wipe the partition with five different methods. A quick zero wiping that will overwrite everything with the 0 character, another quick wiping that overwrites data with the character 1,  a medium two wiping passes first with the 0 and then the 1 character, a slow US Department of Defense 5220.22-M 3 passes, and very slow ultra high security beyond law enforcement and resourceful adversaries data recovery, US Department of Defense 5220.28-STD 7 passes.

Macrorit Disk Partition Wiper

Macrorit Disk Partition Wiper

To stop neighbours I would use the quick data wiping method with characters 0 or 1, to securely dispose of the disk I would use 3 wipes if the data that was been previously saved on the partition or thumbdrive is not life threatening, and if you have time available or the partition is small, I would use the 7 passes wipe to stop all data remanence and peace of mind.

Macrorit Disk Wiper interface is straight forward, there are no hidden menus, you can manage everything from the main window where all computer partitions are listed. Tick a checkbox with the desired wiping method, select the target partition or external drive to erase, at which point you get a warning and are made to type the word “WIPE” to avoid erasing data by mistake, sit down and observe the progress bar as it wipes your partition or thumbdrive.

Like with all partition wiping utilities, you will have to reformat the thumbdrive or partition after wiping it, if you don’t do that the partition will show as unformatted and you will not be able to reuse it.

Visit Macrorit Disk Wiper homepage

“No logs” EarthVPN user arrested after police finds logs

It appears that somebody in the Netherlands had the brilliant idea of using EarthVPN trumpeted offhore no logs VPN service to email bomb threats to his school.

Dutch police stunned the VPN account holder with a quick arrest after tracking down the real computer IP behind the VPN, using as evidence VPN connection logs. Although this young man is claiming that somebody stole his VPN account to send the threats he still has been expelled from school for life and charged by police with sending bomb threats.

All of this happened 6 months ago and I am publicising it now because nobody else has reported about it,  going under the radar for too long and fooling VPN users with a false sense of security.

On EarthVPN defence, a representative claimed in the lowendtalk forums that although they do not keep logs, Dutch police had seized one of their servers with a court order and they suspected that the datacenter was keeping IP transfer logs to protect against Distributed Denial Of Service attacks which is how they managed to track down this person.

No logs EarthVPN user arrested

No logs EarthVPN user arrested (Click image to read)

Click screenshot above to read discussion at LowendTalk forum about the incident (requires registration).

Various lessons must be learned here, the first one is that if you live in the Netherlands, using a VPN server also in the Netherlands to send a bomb threat it is not very smart, in fact, sending a bomb threat at all it is never smart wherever you are.

The second lesson to learn is that you have absolutely no way to know for sure how safe a “No logs” claim really is. Trusting your life to a no logs VPN service it is like gambling with your life in the Russian roulette.

The conclusion is that it appears there is not much a VPN company can do if the data center where they host the server with decides to start logging VPN users as it is being claimed happened here.

EarthVPN also claims to have now cancelled the contract with the Dutch datacentre, however this young man has already been suspended for life from school and gotten into problems with his parents. As much as he deserves anything that happens to him if he is guilty, the main issue here is about VPN trust.

Update: In response to a couple of redditors expressing doubts about this incident, let me be clear that this post is only based on facts and zero assumptions.

I will lay out the facts even clearer:

1) Someone in the Netherlands claims to be an EarthVPN customer who has been arrested.

2) Long standing lowendtalk member with dozens of posts “EarthVPN” acknowledges that a server in the Netherlands was seized. The same “EarthVPN” account (never reported stolen) clearly states that identification of this customer might have been possible using datacenter logs.

I have also considered a way to stop a rogue datacenter from logging your VPN usage it came up to my mind that a multihop VPN service will make it much more difficult for a case like this to happen.

I am adding a link (with a referral code) to iVPN double VPN.

Portable data wiper BitKiller

BitKiller is a free open source program to securely wipe files and folders making them irrecoverable, this is a very tiny 40Kb application that allows you to manually select files or drag and drop them inside the wiping window, if you select a file by mistake it can be easily removed from the list with a click.

Overwritting methods include and all 0s pass, also known as zeroing, and the quickest way to securely wipe a file, a single random data overwrite method, the US DoD 3 overwrites method, the US DoD 7 overwrites and the Gutmann 35 overwrites algorithm. I could not resize the window, not a big deal but sometimes you would like to see the full path before erasing a previously selected file. If you have to select multiple files it is best to place them all inside a folder and wipe the whole folder as I was unable to add more than one file at a time holding down the typical Windows CTRL key to do that.

Portable data wiper BitKiller

Portable data wiper BitKiller

On the plus side the developer should be commended for explaining to the user in the supporting “Readme.txt” file that using the Gutmann method to overwrite data on a modern hard drive it is not needed even if the software includes it. There are data wiping utilities wasting people’s time giving them the false impression that the more times one overwrites a file the more difficult it will be to recover it, in reality, in a modern hard drive there is no way to recover anything after using the US Department of Defense method to wipe data, consisting of either 3 or 7 passes. As one can easily imagine the US Government will have already carried out extensive research and spent lots of money hiring data recovery experts to make sure that the algorithm they use is secure enough for secret data even against opponents with state resources, if their algorithm is good enough to stop US DoD enemies, it should be good enough for everyone.

This is very simple data wiper, idiot proof, not as complete and secure as a full suite that also erases temporary files and hard drive free space but it doesn’t need installation and you can carry it with you on a USB thumbdrive.

Visit BitKiller homepage

PrivaZer, the complete free data eraser

With a multilingual interface and a very complete and thorough data cleanser that includes file and folder wiping, registry cleaner and Internet tracks eraser supporting all major browsers, PrivaZer will fulfil all of your secure data erasing needs. Each one of the cleaning sections has configurable options and the data wiping methods include a variety of different international standards.

The drop-down menu interface is easy to use, advanced options are hidden by default to avoid overwhelming beginners, users with data wiping software experience will love exploring what the options hide and being able to customize it to their own needs. Data erasing is not limited to your desktop computer, there is a list of supported devices that can be selected for a data scan, computer, internal storage device, external device, USB thumbdrive, MP3 player, SD memory card and Network Attached Storage. I specially liked the erasing of the USB devices history traces in Windows, the scan showed me what memory sticks I had plugged in a few months back, USB thumbdrives have a unique serial number that is stored in the registry when you plug it in, this number identifies the memory stick brand and anything else the manufacturer wants to include in the code.

PrivaZer smart cookie eraser

PrivaZer smart cookie eraser

PrivaZer is also one of the few freeware Internet erasing programs that will securely erase Windows pagefile, pagefile.sys. A registry cleaner with optional backup of registry keys is included too. You can set up PrivaZer so that your favourites settings cookies will be kept, e.g. Bing, Amazon, Yahoo, during the internet traces erasing and everything else will be securely erased (cache, history, thumbnails, flash player objects, searched words, etc).

This is the only eraser software I review that comes with instructions on its homepage on how a user can check that wiped data can not be recovered, including a manual with links to data recovery software and how to carry out data recovery tests on the wiped data to see for yourself that it is impossible to revert the data shredding process.

Secure data eraser PrivaZer

Secure data eraser PrivaZer

Data viewers come with the sotware, before erasing the data you can use PrivaZer to look into the contents of the hybernation file, hyberfil.sys, page file, pagefile.sys, IE index.dat and image thumbcache Thumbs.db. It is impossible for the average user to ever see the content of those files without special software and those are the first locations where a trained computer forensics expert will look into when a computer is taken in for analysis. Something to note is that the first clean up can take a couple of hours, the next hard drive sanitisation will be much quicker.

If you travel, a portable version can be generated during installation, a privaZer.exe that can be copied to a USB thumbdrive will be placed on the desktop.

PrivaZer main data wiping methods

  • British HMG IS5 Enhanced Standard (3 passes)
  •  Russian Gost P50739-95 (2 passes)
  • German Federal Office for Information Security (3 passes)
  •  USA Navy NAVSO P-5239-26 (3 passes)
  •  USA DoD 5220.22-M Department of Defense (3 passes)
  •  German VSITR (7 passes)
  •  Bruce Schneier’s Algorithm (7 passes)
  • Peter Gutmann’s Algorithm (35 passes)

 If you do not know what data wiping algorithm to use do not worry, PrivaZer provides factual and useful information when you select one of the methods by warning the user that overwritting data more than 4 times is useless and a waste of time.

This tool is without a doubt far better than many paid for data erasing software, I was taken aback by its all-round data erasing approach, deep scanning, complete information on what is being erased, where data is being stored and extreme configuration. I don’t think you will find anything better for free, PrivaZer is superior to BleachBit and probably as good CyberScrub, ProtectStar or Window Washer.

Visit PrivaZer homepage

Permanently erase files to DoD 522.22-M standard with Super File Shredder

Super File Shredder review

Super File Shredder is a free open source Windows utility to remove sensitive files and folders from your computer by overwriting them several times with your chosen algorithm, with a choice of a quick but low security simple one pass, DoD 5220.22-M (US Department of Defence standard), a 7 pass erasing algorithm and the Gutmann erasing algorithm with 35 passes.

 This tool can be integrated in Windows right click, select the files or folders using the interface or drag and drop the files you would like to securely erase inside the program main window. The secure erasing includes wiping of file names and zeroing after wiping, these last two choices can be disabled in settings although I see no reason for that.

Super File Shredder freeware

Super File Shredder freeware

I found the program to be very easy to use and I liked that it can erase full folders in addition to single files but it could be improved allowing the user to resize the main window, sometimes you can’t see properly the file path if it is too long and the window too small, another shortcoming is that when I right-clicked on a file to wipe it I was asked for administrator rights, in other wiping software I normally use this is not necessary and it saves you time.

The level of security is enough to stop software recovery tools from uncovering your personal files but remember that temporary files could exist elsewhere in your operating system. If your opponent is serious about getting hold of your data I would invest in an all round security suite that takes care of temporary files and not a single data wiping tool like Super File Shredder designed to stop occasional snoopers and unsophisticated people.

Visit Super File Shredder homepage

Disk Wipe, a free wiping utility for memory cards&partitions

Disk Wipe review

 Disk Wipe is a free portable Windows only data wiper to securely remove data from memory storage devices like USB thumbdrives, external hard drives and hard disk partitions. It supports any device formatted with NTFS or FAT, including MP3 players and digital cameras with an internal memory formatted by one of the supported file systems.

Erasing patterns include a one pass wiping with zeroes or random data, Russian GOST P50739-95 (2 passes), British HMG IS5 (3 passes), US DoD 5220.22-M(E) (3 passes), US DoD 5220.22(ECE) (7 passes) and Peter Guttman (35 passes). Its settings comprise volume label naming and thread priority to set up the amount of CPU power you wish to allocate to the data wiping process. There is an online help manual with screenshots but you are not likely to need it.

Secure wiping software Disk Drive

Secure wiping software Disk Drive

After launching Disk Wipe the main window will give you plenty of information about the selected device, like serial number, sector count and master file table info, too technical for the home user but useful for IT departments.

The best feature of Disk Wipe is that it comes with an integrated Hex viewer, this should be standard in all file wipers in my humble opinion, an Hex viewer allows you to see by yourself the hard drive surface to make sure that data has been effectively removed with nothing left behind. During inspection you should only see random characters or zeroes depending on the chosen wiping algorithm, anyone intending to use an Hex editor to check for data remanence will be better off selecting a pattern that writes zeros during the last wiping pass.

Disk Wipe is open source, it can be freely distributed and modified under the terms of the GPL3 license. The program is a small 965Kb download, a good tool to securely erase memory cards and partitions for free.

Visit Disk Wipe homepage

Erase files securely with file wiper Zer0

Secure file wiper

Zer0 is a simple drag and drop secure file wiping software, in modern computers this tool will make use of multithreading to speed up data wiping. Multicore computers run instructions in parallel avoiding bottlenecks.

You can also erase files using right click, Zer0 only requires a single click to make sure your files will be gone for ever, there are no complicate configurations and no options. Files are erased with what the website lists as “high security wiping algorithm“, after asking further information to the developer he claimed that Zer0 implements the Guttman method (35 overwrites) 5 times and 3 specific processes to make recovery impossible. I was surprised at how quick file wiping is given those specs as it means that files are overwritten over 100 times.

Free file wiper Zer0

Free file wiper Zer0

My only criticism with this software is the lack of information about the wiping pattern, I had to go out of my way and ask about it, when it comes to data erasing, unless you have low security needs, you will want to make sure that everything is perfect and the software uses some well known algorithm. While installing Zer0  you will have to watch out for toolbars before clicking on “next“, but you can’t blame the developer for this as it is optional and everyone has to make a living with their work one way or another.

Visit file wiper Zer0 homepage

Securely erase external drives with portable Roadkil’s Disk Wipe

External drive wiper

RoadKil’s Disk Wipe is a very small (55Kb) portable utility to quickly wipe a full external hard drive, it will also wipe thumbdrives and memory cards. It is very easy to operate, after launching the program you select the external drive to wipe and if you want to blank it filling it with zeroes or fill it with random data, another setting lets you input the number of times the device must be overwritten.

RoadKil's portable disk wiper

RoadKil's portable disk wiper

This free data wiper doesn’t need administrator rights to run, you can take it with you wherever you go. Do not be fooled by its simplicity and lack of features, this program will make any data stored in a memory stick or external drive irrecoverable. I would use a three pass data wiping in case of an old drive skipping a sector, the second pass might as well go over it. But this would not happen for sure, when a drive has dead sectors the only sure way to destroy all data is physical destruction.

Visit Roadkil’s Disk Wipe homepage

Wipe Windows page file and folders with SecureDelete

Review TweakNow SecureDelete

TweakNow SecureDelete is a simple easy to use file and folder shredder, it supports standard wiping algorithms, DoD 5220.22M at 7 or 3 passes, this method partially complies with the  National Industrial Security Program (NISP) manual, a US nominal authority to manage standard procedures of private contractors to access classified information, although NISPOM 2007 edition warns that only “degaussing or physical destruction” is acceptable for media sanitization, have into account that Governments work at paranoia level and TweakNow Secure Delete DoD 5220.22M at 7 passes is more than enough to stop unerase utilities including those used by law enforcement.

There is another option to select the Gutmann method to overwrite a file or folder 35 times and another method can be chosen to overwrite data using random characters, manually configurable to as many passes as you like, up to 100 times.

TweakNow SecureDelete freeware eraser

TweakNow SecureDelete freeware eraser

SecureDelete can wipe data stored in the Windows page file at shutdown, the Windows page file is where the operating system stores information when and if it runs out of volatile RAM memory, all kind of confidential data could be found there, including passwords, computer forensics suites are capable of extracting page file data, Windows page file, also known as swap file, can not be manually deleted as it is part of the operating system, this is the reason why it has to be wiped at shutdown or boot up. If you choose to wipe your Windows page file the shutdown process will take much longer than usual, it’s probably best to only enable this option only once in a while and if you have enough RAM in your computer you don’t need to wipe Windows page file as it will be empty.

TweakNow SecureDelete can be used to wipe files in the Recycle Bin, but it would be best not to use the Recycle Bin in the first place, you can disable the Recycle Bin right-clicking on it, choose properties and tick “Remove files immediately when deleted” or use SecureDelete to get rid of the file permanently when you want to erase it, circumventing the Recycle Bin.

Visit TweakNow SecureDelete

Erase external drives and partitions with Remo Drive Wipe

Remo Drive Wipe review

Remo Drive Wipe is a Windows only hard drive erasing tool that allows you to remove sensitive data from physical or logical drives (a logical drive is a part of a physical hard drive that has been partitioned and functions as a separate drive),  by overwriting it with selected patterns that adjust to international disk wiping standards.

The free version of Remo Drive Wipe allows you to wipe a hard drive using a fast zero overwrite, random overwrite or DoD-5220.22M, the first two methods consist of a single data wipe pass, useful for a quick low security wiping, the third method consists of the US Department of Defense standard for sanitizing classified information, a three data wiping pass, more than enough for the home user with the data unlikely to be ever recovered.

Remo Drive Wipe free edition

Remo Drive Wipe free edition

Remo Drive Wipe is not a DBAN alternative, you should not use this software to wipe the hard drive where you are booting your operating system from, this tool runs from inside Windows and it will inevitably stop working if you erase Windows, leaving data still unerased, there is no security mechanism stopping you from doing this. Remo Drive Wipe is perfect to erase partitions, external hard drives and USB thumbdrives but not your main operating system.

For those dealing with data where the opponent can invest a fantastic amount of time and money studying the magnetic fields on the disk platter surface, state sponsored adversaries in search of trade or military secrets, Remo Drive Wipe has a paid for version of its software that includes the NATO data wiping pattern, US Navy NAVSO P-5239-26, Verschlusssache IT Richtlinien (VSITR) method as defined by the German Federal Office for Information Security and a paranoid combination of Peter Gutmann plus the DoD-5220.22M data wiping method, Remo Drive Wipe paid for version helps IT administrators justify to their employers that they are using a strong standard data wiping method to destroy information and cover themselves from any legal liability.

Visit Remo Drive Wipe homepage

Data wiping reviews