Feature #5323

Document a GUI way to securely erase Flash media

Added by Tails over 4 years ago. Updated 6 months ago.

Target version:
Start date:
Due date:
% Done:


QA Check:
Info Needed
Feature Branch:
Type of work:
End-user documentation
Affected tool:


As "pointed out in the forum": (dead link, sorry), former versions of our documentation on secure deletion, was wrongly stating that overwriting twice the available diskspace [on a USB or solid-state drive] is usually, but not always, sufficient to securely clean the drive.

This basically says that in order to securely delete a file from a USB you could delete the file and then the run "Wipe available diskspace" even if you have other files on the volume. Which is wrong according to the paper by Wei & al..

We could propose to wipe the entire device and then reformat it. But srm doesn't seem to run on block devices: I get "Warning: /dev/sdc is not a regular file, rename/unlink only!". On the other hand shred seems to work as usual. It is included in Tails but doesn't have a graphical interface.

So we cannot document a GUI procedure to truly wipe a USB stick at the moment.

Related issues

Related to Tails - Feature #8047: Document the wipe features of Disks Duplicate 10/09/2014


#1 Updated by intrigeri about 4 years ago

  • Subject changed from wiping flash media to Better way to wipe Flash media
  • Starter set to No

#2 Updated by intrigeri about 3 years ago

  • Type of work changed from Upstream to Communicate

#3 Updated by sajolida almost 2 years ago

  • Related to Feature #8047: Document the wipe features of Disks added

#4 Updated by sajolida about 1 year ago

  • Assignee set to spriver
  • QA Check set to Info Needed

I tested GNOME Disks "Format Disk... → Erase" option on a USB stick and it indeed overwrite the entire device. So we might have a solution here. Still, we need to check whether doing one pass only (zeroes) is enough on flash media (reading the paper by Wei & al again as a start). And then adapt /doc/encryption_and_privacy/secure_deletion.html.

spriver: do you want to have a look?

#5 Updated by u 6 months ago

  • Type of work changed from Communicate to End-user documentation

#6 Updated by u 6 months ago

  • Subject changed from Better way to wipe Flash media to Document a GUI way to securely erase Flash media
  • Starter changed from No to Yes

Actually as this ticket here is referenced on, I will close #8047.

Next steps: document the Wipe feature of GNOME Disks. Document the difference with the currently advertised option to "wipe available disk space" using a right click in Nautilus.

Spriver: are you interested in working on this? If not, please reassign to sajolida so that we can see what should be done. Thanks!

#7 Updated by u 6 months ago

  • Description updated (diff)

Previous part of description, for future reference but now unrelated:

Now that the plans for nautilus-wipe to be based on diskscrub are abandoned, the most sensible way to fix this would probably be:

  1. add an option to wipe with 3 random passes, rather than a mere zero one, to the udisks Format method
  2. add access to this feature from Palimpsest, which seems a more appropriate place to trigger destructive operations at the block device level than a Nautilus extension

Next thing to do: report this as wishlist tickets upstream.

-> I don't think this has been done and probably our current options are well researched, so this is not part of this ticket anymore.

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