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mark777
(@mark777)
Active Member

I work in LE.

In our Force we have a new Forensics manager who for some reason has sent an e mail out stating that he is aware of an incident whereby a Police Officer was stood next to a computer and used his Airwaves radio. As a result of this transmission all of the data on the computer hard drive was wiped and unrecoverable.

I have asked for specific details of this incident but as yet have received no reply from him.

I believe that he may be trying to build empires as he has stated that he believes his department should be responsible for computer and mobile phone examinations.

My question is - whilst I appreciate that radios may effect computer drives in theory has any one any knowledge of this happening especially where the whole of the drive has been wiped.

Just for info the type of questions i asked him were

Where did this happen
When
Was it documented and if so where is it
Was this a controlled experiment and if not how did he know there was data on the computer to start with?

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Posted : 24/05/2007 6:07 pm
AndyFox
(@andyfox)
Junior Member

Hi Mark

I thought the Tetra Radios had to be PITO 5 certified - so as to ensure no seepage or electromagneticy could effect other equipment? - eg hard drives

ReplyQuote
Posted : 24/05/2007 7:01 pm
ddow
 ddow
(@ddow)
Active Member

Details would be nice wouldn't they? I'm very inclined to say he heard an urban legend, so some myth buster type brainstorming might be in order. Let’s look at a possible basis for the claim.

Can hard drives be affected by magnets? Sure. Many hard drives are intentionally wiped by powerful electromagnets all the time, but the power in a radio would be insignificant in comparison. Additionally, the magnets are physically very near the drive.

The other basis for the claim would be if RF from the radio interfered with a command being sent from the CPU to the hard drive. I can think of two possible failure modes.

1) The command was a format command. This could not be caused by simple interference as format is a program, not a single command sent on the drive I/O channel. I think we can exclude that as possible at all.

2) The command caused an overwrite of the MBR or partition table. I suppose once in the history of human-kind this could happen. I’d rather bet on the lottery.

Both of these assume that RF from a radio could reach the inside of the case at a primary or harmonic frequency so to interfere with the system.

Both of these can easily be tested by experiment if we have any radio operators in the forum. Alternatively, if the guy isn’t your boss, and it’s politically safe for you to do it, challenge him to do it.

ReplyQuote
Posted : 24/05/2007 7:06 pm
BitHead
(@bithead)
Community Legend

If the radios in question create that much EMR, your officers will soon have huge tumors near their radio holsters. I cannot imagine that that would be acceptable just as I cannot imagine radios erasing HDDs (at least in normal circumstances/use).

ReplyQuote
Posted : 24/05/2007 7:51 pm
deckard
(@deckard)
Member

As a Ham radio operator i'd have to debunk this one. I have several radios in my shack, and many handheld ones that operate with the same wattage as police HT's, and have 3 computers that operate within inches of some. No effects.

Furthermore I have setup in the field a 2meter radio with antenna just less than foot away from a laptop computer and transmitted at 50 watts with no adverse effects.

Operate a HT in front of your television and watch the picture go haywire, but it doesn;t erase the HDD in your TiVo

Bill

ReplyQuote
Posted : 24/05/2007 8:14 pm
nate
 nate
(@nate)
New Member

It is possible the statement was taken out of context. The news has reported that cell phones and radio transmitters might be used for remote detonators for IED's. A half pound of C4 explosive near a hard drive would most likely wipe out all data on it if it were accidently detonated by a hand held radio. But then again accidently wiping the hard drive wouldn't be much of an issue in that case, at least to the guy with the radio

Nate

ReplyQuote
Posted : 25/05/2007 12:16 am
Wardy
(@wardy)
Active Member

As a Ham radio operator i'd have to debunk this one. I have several radios in my shack, and many handheld ones that operate with the same wattage as police HT's, and have 3 computers that operate within inches of some. No effects.

Furthermore I have setup in the field a 2meter radio with antenna just less than foot away from a laptop computer and transmitted at 50 watts with no adverse effects.

Operate a HT in front of your television and watch the picture go haywire, but it doesn;t erase the HDD in your TiVo

Bill

A friend has just given me the same kinda answer as you. His radio is connected directly into his pc and sits on top of the pc case, which is mostly plastic. In over 6 months of use, he has never suffered data loss.

His exact response was "he must be living in the land of make believe with the pixies at the bottom of the garden".

ReplyQuote
Posted : 25/05/2007 12:19 am
mikeypopo
(@mikeypopo)
Junior Member

Mark,
I also work in LE. My radio sits next to my exam machine with no data destruction. Physics dictates that the magnitude of electromagnetic force to push all the 1's on a drive to 0's would have to be so powerful that "bleed over" wavelengths would be damaging to human tissue.

IE - the land of pixies… thermonuclear pixies…

Mike

ReplyQuote
Posted : 25/05/2007 12:29 am
trewmte
(@trewmte)
Community Legend

Back in 1990s apparently the post office sorting and computer branch opposite Heathrow had its mainframe computers knocked out. The overload was caused allegedly by a massive surge from a new radar dish from the airport. The mainframe had not been earthed properly and the mainframe had become an aerial and was subsequently knocked out and data destroyed when the new radar became operational.

I believe a case 1988 led to a principle regarding the proper preservation of evidence. As I understand it, the case subsequently collapsed due to failure by the police to secure computer disks properly. Various incidences of failure occurred one of which was a bag of floppies in evidence bag on officers desktop came into contact with a ringing TACS analogue mobile telephone wiping data off the floppies apparently.

I haven't heard anything from mobile telephone or computer evidence side having been affected by Tetra units being used in the same room. If that was happening what happens in your CAD room when an officer walks in with his radio blaring away?

However, if this is a policy and procedure issue - what about eg your computer back ups etc?

ReplyQuote
Posted : 25/05/2007 7:24 pm
mark777
(@mark777)
Active Member

Update

Apparently our man got this info third hand and decided to broadcast it without checking up.

Have found out the real tory myself. Goes like this

Person in high tech office standing beside a 2 tb bolton hardware raid box. Used airwaves radio to make a call and then noticed one of the partitions of the raid had gone. This was recovered later OK. mentioned to another man that it had happened and suggested that only thing that had happened was the airwaves call and wondered if that had anything to do with it. This other person had then apparently broadcast the fact that airwaves caused data loss.

The high tech guys have tried to replicate the situation but have been unable to do so.

All in all seems the world is not going to explode and we can all sleep safe in our beds for the time being.

D

ReplyQuote
Posted : 25/05/2007 9:08 pm
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