While hard disk drives may just be boring old technology to most people – steady working electronic data storage that gets the job done – Hard Drive Recovery Group points out that HDD units can be far more than just that in its latest blog.

Entitled “What Does A Hard Drive Do?” discusses a recent finding by computer scientists that demonstrates that the mechanical components that make up a hard disk drive can behave as a microphone. The process involves accessing an acoustic side channel that enables scientists to measure how sound waves make hard disk parts vibrate during use.

The research was presented in May at the 2019 IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy. It shows that although the actual HDD vibrations do not yield sound of particularly good quality, human speech can be discerned, given the right conditions.

“The process is something that the scientists discovered is possible when the HDD firmware is altered, using an offset called the Positional Error Signal,” said Maureen Davies, spokesperson for Hard Drive Recovery Group. “While this certainly does create a pretty huge ‘neat-o factor’, it also unfortunately seems like the kind of discovery that has more applications for bad actors such as hackers.”

Certainly, the findings in this study are preliminary, and to suggest that current drives are easily programmable to pick up unauthorized audio is probably going beyond the realms of possibility. But, the idea of the technology being used as a hack-friendly listening device in the future is a terrifying one, without a doubt.

“One of the lucky things about this particular research is that in order to create this listening channel, one has to use malicious firmware and install it into the hard drive itself,” said Davies. “This is the kind of process that is far from seamless and very few operating systems would allow to happen remotely. And yet, it does certainly create a chilling effect for a discovery that would otherwise be quite interesting.”

In another recent blog post, the company discusses large hard disk drives as well as hard drive failure – the latter being absolutely key annoyance for almost anyone that has used a drive based computer or gadget. The tendency for many consumers is to trust newer technologies and have expectations of better performance – something which they should avoid when it comes to new hard drives based on old designs.

“Despite the fact that hard drives are now starting to have capacities upwards of 10TB and greater, the key design breakpoint – the platter and spindle – remain the same,” said Davies. “The fact that many people do not understand is that hard drives, while certainly less prone to failure than, say, 20 years ago, are still subject to very similar rates of crash.”

And in another post, Hard Drive Recovery Group talked about Privacy Flag, an EU funded project that allows consumers to better protect their data privacy while online. Education surrounding online data privacy is always something that consumers can use, particularly in an environment where literally five companies have control over the personal data of hundreds of millions of consumers.

“Europe is almost always ahead of the game when it comes to protecting the individual rights of people over the profit concerns of corporations,” said Davies. “It is unfortunate that in the US, agencies like the FTC and FCC have become rubber stamp organizations for large corporations. Yet, as these huge corporations continue to affect consumers on a daily basis, the idea of breaking them up via antitrust laws has become much more popular than ever before.”

from Hard Drive Recovery Group