Ultra WinCleaner DestroyIt & DiskSanitizer Pro

Reviewed by: Jack Reikel
Published by: Business Logic Corporation
Requires: Windows 98 through Vista, 16MB RAM, Pentium or faster processor, 3MB disk space, Internet Explorer 6 or higher
MSRP: $69.95

The package, looking suspiciously like a brightly colored box of laundry detergent (albeit vastly lighter in weight), contains two programs - DestroyIt Pro (for files and folders) and a handy little item (on floppy disk no less) called DiskSanitizer Pro v2 which is designed specifically as a boot program for completely destroying the entire contents of hard drives, including the operating system. DestroyIt is specifically designed to permanently delete files and folders in a way which makes them absolutely unrecoverable.

I know what you're thinking. Paranoia. You're a typical computer user who really doesn't think there's anything incriminating stored on your computer. Besides, if there ever was, you can always delete it. The porn you deleted last month? Some important or confidential bit of personal or business information that you deleted last week or last month? I'll bet you think that because it was deleted, it's gone forever. But that's just not so - not so at all. In fact, there's a whole tech industry segment which has grown up over the past 20 years or so completely focused on recovering data from hard drives and other storage media, digging up data that's been accidentally 'deleted', digging up the 'goods' on someone who has committed a crime, resurrecting incriminating (or just lost) files, e-mail, etc., etc. It's a profitable business, fed by, among other reasons, our insistence on not doing proper backups, the propensity of some criminals to leave digital traces, and the absolute likelihood that hard drives and other storage media are guaranteed to fail when you least expect it.

What that all means is that if you really want to destroy data on your computer, simply clicking Delete just won't do. We can't emphasize it enough. Your computer contains a gold mine of information about you: every file you save, every letter you write, every e-mail you send, every Web page you visit; even your company's database and financial information. Data that was deleted months or even a year ago can be lurking underneath your present data, waiting to be recovered by anyone who knows how to restore it. Data restoration or recovery is surprisingly easy to do with available software utilities.

DestroyIt installs quickly - it's a small program - and will run on almost any Windows PC you can find. Configuring the program reveals the permanence of its actions, with no less than 7 selectable confirmation levels meant to prevent even the dumbest and most error-prone among us from accidentally destroying something. You can choose to destroy individual files, folders and entire directories. Depending on the destruction method used, data which you choose to destroy is gone forever.

The DestroyIt interface is simple, easy to understand and offers a range of data destruction options:

  • Casually Secure - fastest but least secure method. This method will defeat casual investigation and most consumer-level undelete software utilities.
  • Adequately Secure - a reliable method of destroying data designed to be human-readable. Defeats all software recovery methods such as undelete tools, cluster viewers and hex editors, etc.). Seems more than adequate for most users.
  • U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) 5220.22-M Standards - meets the guidelines set by section 8.306 of the DoD's 5220.22-M standard.
  • Exceeding DoD 5220.22-M Standards - more like a bulk eraser for hard disks, thereby defeating virtually all known software and hardware recovery techniques.

Maximum Security (Peter Gutmann method) — provides protection against all recovery methods. Defeats even the most sophisticated data recovery equipment. It seems to work effectively on all types of disks, but the process is time consuming and should only be used on a drive you don't need for a morning (and which contains data serious enough to warrant the additional paranoia). Mr. Gutmann presented his original paper on Secure Deletion of Data from Magnetic and Solid-State memory in the Sixth USENIX Security Symposium Proceedings in San Jose, California in 1996. Read about his theories on Erasure of Data stored on Magnetic Media.

User Defined — multiple data passes, each one of which can be customized, plus choice of data destruction character to use for the overwrite process.

Did you know that data overwritten once or twice may be recovered by subtracting what is expected to be read from a storage location from what is actually read? Even data which is overwritten an arbitrarily large number of times can still be recovered provided that the new data isn't written to the same location as the original data (for magnetic media), or that the recovery attempt is carried out fairly soon after the new data was written (for RAM). For this reason it is often effectively impossible to sanitize storage locations by simply overwriting them, no matter how many overwrite passes are made or what data patterns are written. However by using the relatively simple techniques in the Gutmann method the task of an attacker can be made significantly more difficult, if not prohibitively expensive, and that's why we recommend the setting. On the other hand, the other settings are OK if your data is really not particularly desirable. The final setting in the security method dialog - User Defined - in our opinion is primarily for hobbyists interested in experimenting with this kind of technology.

In use, DestroyIt works quickly and uses very few system resources. We keep a variety of data recovery tools around our research offices mainly for those times when one of us accidentally deletes some crucial (and sometimes expensive) file. What we quickly discovered is that destroying a file with DestroyIt confirmed the software's claims - all settings from Adequately Secure through even only mildly complex User Defined configurations rendered the destroyed file gone forever. DestroyIt effectively defeated all of the commercially available file recovery software we use including Executive Software's Undelete, O&O Unerase, Restorer2000, OnTrack EasyRecovery, LCTechnology's PhotoRecovery and Active@Uneraser.

WinCleanerDiskSanitizer Pro is another story. It's a cross platform application which can be used to sanitize any type of hard or floppy disks connected to the computer. It is usually installed and operated from a system (bootable) floppy disk, but it can also be installed on a hard drive and run from a Command prompt (for non-booting disks, floppies and removable drives). The version supplied in the package is good for two hard drives and you can obtain additional licenses directly from Business Logic. If you're selling a PC, giving away old computers to schools, upgrading hard drives or repurposing a hard drive (or multiple) drives in an organization, you really don't want to leave any traces or recoverable data lying around.

Disk sanitizing is a simple and almost foolproof process. Place the floppy disk in the computer to be sanitized then reboot. At the DiskSanitizer DOS screen select the drives to sanitize, select the sanitization method, select sanitization options then confirm the drive and sanitization process. The sanitization methods you can choose from are essentially the same as the destruction methods found in DestroyIt. DiskSanitizer adds the option to generate random data streams using ISAAC Pseudo-Random Number Generating algorithm.

We tried DiskSanitizer on two different machines, both of which contained thousands of recoverable files and directories. We proved recoverability prior to running DiskSanitizer by using Executive Software's Undelete and OnTrack EasyRecovery Pro to recover or undelete several dozen files. We also manually restored a handful of files using the venerable HexEdit. We then rebooted with DiskSanitizer and sanitized the hard drives. Attempts afterward to detect recoverable or otherwise undeletable data on the drives using the Undelete and EasyRecovery emergency floppy disks proved to be impossible. HexEdit and some other DOS hex editors were also useless because there was nothing on the hard drives except completely random data. Simple put, there was absolutely nothing to recover.

Cons: Lots of choices but the most secure destruction method for sensitive data is limited to one selection - the Gutmann method. The software's main strength is also it's primary danger, so you have to be very careful about what you select for destruction. We can't emphasize this enough - once DestroyIt destroys it, it's gone. Ditto for DiskSanitizer.

Pros: Special file name destruction for FAT and FAT32 drives which not only destroys the data file itself but also any trace of the file in the File Allocation Table. The bonus DiskSanitizer Pro disk is a nasty little item which will unalterably wipe any hard drive, a great little tool to have (and use) prior to selling your PC. DiskSanitizer has a nifty BIOS Free feature which lets you fully sanitize large hard drives even on older computers which don't support today's enormous disk capacities. In corporate environments, at home, in small offices - anywhere data is at risk - DestroyIt can be successfully used to ensure that nobody gets to see data they're not supposed to see. Paranoid? Maybe. Secure? Definitely. Recommended.





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