By Ryan DeBeasi, NetworkWorld.com June 27, 2006 06:29 PM ET
You are on a U.S. military aircraft, transporting hard drives with important, classified information, when you collide with another plane and are forced to land near an enemy intelligence agency. There is no time to delete the files, and the drives are in heavy-duty steel cases so that they are difficult to destroy. You have a few minutes before someone finds you, grabs the drives, and searches them for even the smallest trace of useful data. What would you do?
Michael Knotts, a senior research scientist at the Georgia Tech Research Institute, dealt with this question after a U.S. plane collided with a Chinese fighter jet and was forced to land near what he called “China’s premier signals intelligence department” four years ago. At the request of defense contractor L3 Communications, he and other researchers developed a method for quickly erasing hard drives by cranking them through a mechanism with a powerful magnet inside.