back to article Smoke-belching flash drive self-destructs on command

Chinese flash biz Runcore has built a self-destructing solid-state drive. The ironically named InVincible SATA SSD is aimed at military applications and customised SSD markets where a very high degree of data protection is required. It comes in 1.8-inch and 2.5-inch rugged form factors with SATA, PATA and CF Card interfaces, …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Shades of Mission Impossible?

    This USB stick will self destruct in 5..4..3..2..1..0


    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Shades of Mission Impossible?

      No, shades of Apple Design (TM).

      Look where the red and green buttons are wired to - these go to the unused pins on the SATA interface, the same ones Apple uses for their cursed "special thermal management" system in iMacs. I bet this drive has an entertaining compatibility problem - plug it into a reasonably new Mac and it will selfdestruct spontaneously straight away.

      1. Nuke

        @Voland's right hand - Re: Shades of Mission Impossible?

        Maybe the Mac will explode instead.

        Just hoping.

    2. Robert A. Rosenberg

      Re: Shades of Mission Impossible?

      I wonder why this was my FIRST though after seeing the video and the mention of the Blue Smoke <grin>. My ideas was the fabricators watched too many MI episodes in their youth.

  2. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    Cue Q

    "Please be careful with it Bond!"

    I bet Simon Travaglia would like these. Paint the green button red and vice versa.

    1. Anonymous Custard

      Re: Cue Q

      Nah, just label the red one "Do not push"

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Cue Q

        @Anonymous Custard

        You label it "Push here to secure data permanently.", then when Customs or Plod pick up the drive and ask you questions about it, they're bound to find such a button hard to resist, they destroy the data for you! Simple!

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Silverburn

      Re: Cue Q

      Pfft. As if he'd allow case access anyway. He'd have the case wired into the live circuit of the power supply.

      1. TeeCee Gold badge

        Re: Cue Q

        Not while there's the possibility of using a three-phase supply he wouldn't.

  3. Silverburn

    Blue Smoke? Good luck getting this past CE approval for sale in the EU.

    One feature missing from the self destruction option; remote "detonation", in the event of theft/loss etc. Quite how you'll get it to 'phone home' is another issues though...

    1. Piro Silver badge

      Military use

      I love the idea that it wouldn't be allowed, but deadly firearms would be.

    2. The Indomitable Gall

      Remote detonation.

      Think about it -- anyone with high enough security requirements *will* *not* *want* a publically available protocol for remote detonation: they'll want a top secret, in-house one. They can roll their own and simply connect it to the appropriate pins on the device.

      I mean, imagine if the US army invaded Iran with this stuff in their equipment and the Iranians just started saturating the airwaves with remote destruct signals.

      So the manufacturer can't make the remote option as standard.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Remote detonation.

        remote detonation sadly is "not an option in the United Kingdom of Great Britain...." due to the safety at work regulations". Moreover, the EU directive No 433337532/EC/43443B-1Aa/4332466645/2016 makes it illegal to "install explosives in the working environment with the presence of a human operator in the proximity of 5 km (5,000 metres) due to the potential loss of life, hearing and other unforseen but strictly prohibited circumstances"

        1. schubb

          Re: Remote detonation.

          Maybe watch the video and learn that it uses a massive over-voltage surge to burn the chips out...hardly explosives.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Remote detonation.

          Thales used to sell a VPN device which had a small block of explosive over the IC with a motion sensor component to prevent theft. Apparently a certain military thought they were a good idea until someone did a certain manoeuvre in a submarine and the unit under test destroyed itself.

        3. laird cummings

          Re: Remote detonation.

          @ AC: 21st May 2012 10:17 GMT

          Need not be explosives. An exothermal device of sucffcient capacity will do. All you need would be a contained chemical reaction, such as water + potasium hydroxide.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Remote detonation.

        @The Indomitable Gall

        "Now Abdul we wait for night for the light show from the indfidels! Ha ha ha! You push the radio transmitter button and I film it for YouTube. 3...2...1...Oooooh! Look at all the pretty blue explosions all over the enemy camp!"

    3. NightFox

      Orange Boiler Suits

      Kudos to the first person to (try to*) take one of these through airport security

      *depending on your views of the effectiveness of airport security

  4. Phil Kingston

    I think I'll just carry on with a pair of good ol' defrib paddles on the outside of the case.

  5. Benjamin 4

    I still think sledgehammers are a more fun way of destroying data.

    1. Nuke

      @Benjamin 4

      Yes, but there's never a sledgehammer handy when you are stopped for a search at customs.

      1. Silverburn

        Re: @Benjamin 4

        The scarily depressing part is the way things are going, it'll be US customs that are more likely to do this type search rather than a visit to a supposedly "hostile" nation.

        <-- Still, at least they're winning the war on terror...

      2. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

        Re: @Benjamin 4

        Yes, but there's never a sledgehammer handy when you are stopped for a search at customs.

        Finally a use for those armed guards walking around.. Aim here, please..

        Actually, I can see it now - a new coin driven machine with the kind of pulse degausser that is guaranteed to melt the NHS amalgam out of every Brit in the vicinity with NHS dental treatment. Hmm, must go and look in the old shed if I find parts..

      3. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

        Re: @Benjamin 4

        Yes, but there's never a sledgehammer handy when you are stopped for a search at customs.

        Is that not the definition of customs, using a sledgehammer to crack a peanut.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Remember this is not intended for Joe Bloggs users.

      If your a soldier in combat about to be overridden by the enemy I think you would rather have a covered button to press for destroying all the data that run around trying to find a big hammer, and just shooting it a few times would not ensure the data was not recoverable.

      This would also be ideal for embassy kit, as the days of opening the lead acid batteries used for backup power and pouring the contents over the equipment are hopefully gone (standard practice I'm told for the 1960's and 70's), plus this would be a lot quicker.

      1. Tom 13

        Re: Remember this is not intended for Joe Bloggs users.

        Go! Get away from here! Shoo!

        There will be NO serious postings in this thread.

      2. Graham Dawson Silver badge

        Re: Remember this is not intended for Joe Bloggs users.


        I don't know about UK procedures but I'm given to understand that the US armed forces employ a three-part procedure to destroy their data. First they format the drives, then they cut the drives into pieces with an industrial cutter, then they pile them up with a few cases of thermite and throw a match. You know, just in case.

  6. Gagol

    Real men

    Uses thermite to destroy the entire computer enclosed in ceramic casing.

  7. Anonymous Coward

    Cilit Bang.

    Boom, and the data's gone...

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  8. bigphil9009


    Gads, that computer is rather precariously balanced on the desk!

  9. DragonLord

    I'd want the drive to have the option of having to depress the green button on power up to avoid the drive wipe, and have it as a firmware option that you can update using a utility. That way you can only change it while it's powered up.

    Even better would be if you had to provide a key string within a certain time period or it self destructed, and it has enough capacitors on board to do it even if the power is subsequently removed.

  10. Joeman

    The red button needs one of those cool flip up covers... just for added dramatic affect :)

    Once you let the smoke out of the box, its very difficult to get it back in!

  11. John Young

    Not sure I could resist pressing that red button, I'd end up buying a new drive every week... hang on maybe that's their plan!

  12. This post has been deleted by its author

  13. Schultz

    It's not smoke, ...

    it's the data evaporating.

    Finally a Flash drive that really makes a flash! I wonder if you will be allowed to board the plane with this.

  14. playoldgames

    2:30 is the bit you want.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "who could resist hitting a shiny big red button?"

    Narrator: How can he possibly resist the maddening urge to erradicate history at the mere push of a single button? The beautiful, shiny button? The jolly, candy-like button? Will he hold out, folks? Can he hold out?

    Stimpy: No I can't! Yeagh!

    [Pushes button]

    1. James O'Shea

      Re: "who could resist hitting a shiny big red button?"

      There are many, many, many Shiny Red Buttons. Don't press them.

      Roger is one dead raccoon as soon as Doc and Sandy get hold of him.

  16. TRT Silver badge

    I'm surprised that they didn't use any kind of special security screws on the casing. Also, it must take a lot of power to burn up those chips, so there's no way that the drive can have an integral battery to enable the physical destruction completely autonomously.

    1. daveeff
      Big Brother


      Power could be an issue then - can I plug my laptop in so I can self destruct it?

      My drives are truecrypted but what I want is a truecrypt delete password - type in the right password and all is good, type in the specific delete password and it scrambles the lot. If anyone forces me to disclose the password I can give the delete one.


  17. Crisp

    It's awesome!

    I want one.

    With thermite.

  18. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Why not use the TRIM command?

  19. david 12 Silver badge

    I was told at my university, in the mid 70's,

    That a couple of post-grad students doing a research degree accidently destroyed their processor, back when such things were exotic.

    On the one spare backup processor, they single stepped the code until they came to an error: an undocumented opcode.

    Which short-circuited the power supply through a path through the centre of the chip. They had been shipped a military version of the processor.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I was told at my university, in the mid 70's,

      Distant memories suggest that may have been an 8 bit, 6800 derivative?

      There was a chip (early SOC) of that eara that had an illegal instruction that opened up the serial lines and/or power lines directly onto the address buss and fried the CPU in seconds.

      1. Anonymous Coward 15

        Re: I was told at my university, in the mid 70's,

  20. Hayden Clark Silver badge

    It's fake

    Look at the image at 2:30. The while silkscreen looks blurred, like someone did a bad smudge with photoshop.

    1. Joeman

      Re: It's fake

      Might have a point - with that big CPU fan running that close to the drive, wouldnt you exepct the smoke to be sucked in/blown away by the fan??

      1. EddieD

        Re: It's fake

        Actually, no - that's the exhaust fan on the XPC, and if it's anything like mine, unless the machine is doing something intense, it's very slow and quiet, one of the reasons I love my XPCs.

        The smoke does drift away slowly, which is roughly what I'd expect at the range (my little incense burner, alongside my SX58H7 is hardly affected at about 3 inches range - until I play a decent game, when the smoke goes horizontally...

    2. Bob H

      Re: It's fake

      Agreed, I quickly spotted the use of a smudge tool.

    3. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

      Re: It's fake

      I think the data can be restored using Photoshop's healing tool.

  21. Anonymous Coward

    Self Destructing Drive?

    Sir Clive Sinclair got there years ago with the Microdrive.

    Should your data fall into enemy hands, the Microdrive cartridge would instantly be rendered unreadable. In fact if it fell into anyones hands, including your own, it was also unreadable.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "who could resist hitting a shiny big red button?"


  23. Cameron Colley

    Do se need a new error message?

    "sda is on fire"?

    1. Anonymous Coward 15

      Re: Do se need a new error message?

      It's traditionally printer ports that are on fire, or so I've read.

  24. FlashedUpGordon

    I luurrrrvveee the intro from RunCore!

    What a fantastic video!

    The lass presenting looks like she has been dubbed, but in a 1970's kung-fu movie kinda way! lol!

    Can see this been useful in china, africa and parts of the middle east. I canny see EU or US military peeps taking a boatload of these! Not in the current climate of cyber-suspicion...

    1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      Re: I luurrrrvveee the intro from RunCore!

      I have the feeling they didn't do too many takes - it gets costly with a physically destructing drive (although I personally would not be above "accidentally" screwing up so I could so it again :).

      You can see that in how she keeps away from the drive - she had no idea what it was going to do..

      1. David Schmidt

        Re: I luurrrrvveee the intro from RunCore!

        I love how she crouches down, but still looks right at it without any kind of eye protection...

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    there's no bad publicity

    especially when it comes free courtesy of reliable media sources.

    nosir, there's no sign of a smirk or any other face muscle twitching detected.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Works with Windows 8

    you appear to be trying to destroy your flash drive. Is this correct y/n?

    presses n

    you have pressed y....

  27. Testy McTester

    Disk encryption?

    And the problem with disk encryption was...?

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: Disk encryption?

      The problem is that your password is only ever as strong as your ability to resist the rubber hose and pliers.

      1. Testy McTester

        Re: Disk encryption?

        It need only delete the encryption key. Besides, is overwriting with random data really that insecure? This just seems like the idea of someone who likes blowing things up and selling replacement storage devices.

        1. MrZoolook

          Re: Disk encryption?


          Besides, is overwriting with random data really that insecure?

          I'm no expert on data security, but even I have software that can recover overwritten data several levels deep.

      2. Tom 13

        Re: rubber hose and pliers.

        or Colombian prostitute, as the case may be...

    2. Alan Firminger

      The whole drive could be a use once encryption key, for which instant destruction is very helpful.

  28. adam payne

    Must resist temptation to push big red button...must resist!

  29. Pinky

    Interface destruction won't destroy the data

    Unless pressing the red button does the same as the green, then blows to chips, there's no way this will enter any military systems. just going down the physical destruction of the chips won't suffice - I have recovered data from damaged flash chips in the past. Not easy, but well within the budget for a government body.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Interface destruction won't destroy the data

      From the video, it looks to me like the button directs current, probably from the +12V line, directly into the flash cells thus releasing their magic blue smoke. I'm no double-E, but I'm pretty sure that'll wipe all the cells pretty thoroughly.

      But honestly, if you're paranoid/concerned enough to have a self-destructing disk you would surely encrypt it as well, the idea being to make it as difficult as possible to recover anything.

  30. Nick Gisburne

    Problem scenario

    Can anyone spot a problem with this scenario...

    TSA: Excuse me sir, please come with us, and we'll take your computer

    You: Before you take it, can I just power it up and press the shiny red button?

    TSA: That sounds very reasonable, please continue

    A destructive mechanism is surely more useful if the owner needs to DE-activate it every time it's switched on. How often are you likely to be just about to fall into enemy hands and yet also have enough time to power up the system and press the red button? I would have thought that a more common scenario is this: the equipment is taken (surprise attack / theft / seizure) before you can destroy the data - you may in fact not even realise it's gone. In which case you need to be sure that if the correct password isn't entered at boot-up the thing will self-destruct.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Problem scenario

      I wouldn't travel with a computer.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Problem scenario

      I'm given to understand that law enforcement usually remove the drive and make a copy before doing anything. Therefore what is required is an internal capacitor wired into the standard power supply so as to blow the drive as soon as power is supplied. On your PC you have this circuit earthed so that it never charges up. Ergo it's is safe for the crim to use but as soon as plod raid you, they remove the drive, power it up to make a copy and kaboom. I think I'll patent it,

    3. philbo

      Re: Problem scenario

      All you need is a fairly cryptic voice activation control.. something you wouldn't say by accident, like:

      "I call upon the power of the dark side! Sidious, give me power! Vader, give me control! Death star, vapourize the rebel planet.. er.. flash drive"

      ..or in a more Harry Potter sort of world:

      "Flash discus incinero"

      It would be almost worth it to see the cop's reaction

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Problem scenario

        Then you get arrested for being high.

  31. easyk

    US Military

    US Mil did for a while have a spec that demanded the physical destruction of flash media. I have been told that they have since relaxed that to where some kind of errasure is sufficent. Silicon Systems was one company I know that made them.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: US Military

      I did too, they taught us to GRIND IT TO DUST AND STORE THAT DUST IN A VAULT

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This Electronic Vote Machine WIll Self Destruct

    Just like I said.

    While this is drastic, imagine, just changing the logic pattern instead. e.g. destroy a fuse and change the circuit logic.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This Electronic Vote Machine WIll Self Destruct

      Using a remote rf device, using, another device, destroy a fuse, change the logic, tie it all up in a x-mas package from the msm and boom, never a people vote again.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: This Electronic Vote Machine WIll Self Destruct

        Want to check the machine isn't tampered with? Great. whip out your electron microscopes, and destructively reverse engineer every voting machine.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If you want an electronic dictatorship sea of death

    then don't listen.

  34. Wind Farmer


    I mean, it's not cutting edge now, is it?

  35. A1batross

    Like the apocryphal space pen...

    ...the red button does what a Russian mallet could do!

  36. Mark 30

    Back in the day... the US had in IFF in aircraft that the destruct mode would fire two .45 Cal ACP rounds into it. The rounds were mounted in the IFF case.

  37. Patrick R

    The Ultimate Leakproof ... probably ?

    Why does she say "and I don't think it's going to work again". Are you positive or what ?

  38. sisk

    Button-ended wires

    *Bang Bang Crash* "FBI! Hands in the air!"

    "Crap, the feds. Quick, hit the red button!"

    Replace FBI with law enforcement body of choice. I could see this being very popular amoung paranoid criminals even without a remote. Ditto for spies, though I'd imagine they'd have a bit less time to get to the button.

  39. BristolBachelor Gold badge

    SSD catching up

    There have been spinny disks with this tech in for a while. They contain a small vial of acid that eats the surface coating of the disk, rendering the data gone forever (supposed to be more secure than the "secure erase" app that wrote over the data with random blocks 10 times - and would've taken about a week for w hole disk).

    There are a couple of options; there is a mechanical option (lever ISTR) or an electrical input.

  40. katx5h

    Not for the Red - Green Colour Blind

    This will need to come with a disclaimer for the Red/Green Colour Blind!

  41. Steve Carr 1

    So all of you folk with a huge MP3/movie collection should invest NOW in these, for when the RIAA/MPAA come a calling.... Though it would take a swag of drives, and you'd have lots of red buttons to push...

    Flames, because there's no smoke without fire....

  42. zen1

    We secretly...

    switched the "red button" with Jim's 'e' key. Let's watch as the hillarity ensues.

    I wouldn't be so presumptious to speak for most 'institutionalized' IT professionals, but I know I for one would abuse the piss out of the red button, just out of principle. Another evening of unpaid overtime? zap. Being asked by boss "how to open excel spreadsheet"? zap. Crude, elaborate practical joke perpatrated on unsuspecting coworkers who built home made taser and wired it to my mouse "for their amusement"? zap.

    Think of all the possibilities of remote detonation: User: "I can't get to the internet and I can't understand why you guys are just sitting around looking at your screens?" Zap (note to self: for extra negative reenforcement, get said coworkers taser mouse deployed to the masses, immediately!)

    Receive lol cats email from relatives or friends? zap. Receive FB friend request from, well, anybody? ZAP ZAP ZAP ZAP zap zap ZAP!!!

  43. davedaurelle

    Red and Green buttons?

    Isn't this a little bit of a problem if you're color blind?

  44. Charles Osborne

    Hayden and the others are correct

    Rank amateur use of the Photoshop "smudge" tool.

  45. Repo
    Big Brother

    The name's Bauer, Jack Bauer.

    Someones been watching too much 24. Jack Bauer did this somewhere around Season 5

  46. MrZoolook
    Thumb Up

    A proximity sensor would...

    ... maybe make this a way to stop UK-GOV from letting Abdullah The Cabbie from passing my details to Al Qaida... or something.

  47. MrZoolook

    The data isn't destroyed...

    That puff of smoke is telling you the data is now stored in the cloud!

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