Wipe a Server
What would you do if you had to erase all the files securely on a
server thousands of miles away?
In many ways, I feel sorry for people
stuck with proprietary operating systems.
When something goes wrong or if they
have a problem to solve, the solution
either is obvious, requires buying special
software or is impossible. With Linux, I’ve
always felt that I was limited only by my
own programming and problem-solving
abilities, no matter what problem presented itself. Throughout the years that
Linux has been my primary OS, I’ve run
into quite a few challenging and strange
problems, such as how to hot-migrate
from a two-disk RAID 1 to a three-disk
RAID 5, or more often, how to somehow
repair a system I had horribly broken.
Recently, I ran into an interesting challenge
when I had to decommission an old
server. The server had quite a bit of
sensitive data on it, so I also had to
erase everything on the machine securely.
Finally, when I was done completely
wiping away all traces of data, I had to
power off the machine. This is a relatively
simple request when the server is under
your desk: boot a rescue disk, use a tool
like shred to wipe the data on all the
hard drives, then press the power button.
When the server is in a remote data
center, it’s a little more challenging: use
a remote console to reboot into a rescue
disk, wipe the server, then remotely pull
the power using some networked PDU.
When, like me, you have to wipe a server
thousands of miles away with no remote
console, no remote power, no remote
help and only an SSH connection, you
start scratching your head.
Why Would You Ever Do This?
At this point, some of you might be
asking: “Why would you ever need to do
this?” It turns out there are a few different reasons both legitimate and shady:
1. You have broken hardware. This
could be a server with a broken
video card, a malfunctioning KVM or
remote serial console, or some other
problem where physical hardware