How to steal a Terabyte of Data by Floppy disk

Looking at increasingly portable storage

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How to steal a Terabyte of Data by Floppy disk

Looking at increasingly portable storage

Peter Marriott

“Why are they banning USB sticks?” a colleague of mine at a client complained. New company policy was that any USB drives had to be encrypted and would only work on company machines. “After all,” he continued, “you could still steal data on a floppy disk.”

This reminded me of a chat I had with a friend whose company database had just hit the 1 Terabyte size when portable 1 Terabyte USB discs came onto the market. He was the security manager there and was locking down USB devices in the same way. The other day I bought a 1 Terabyte USB2 hard disk and I thought I would see how this, now ubiquitous, device stacked up against the old-school floppy.

How long to copy a Terabyte?

It took 9 hours to fill the disk. Not quick, but could easily be accomplished within a working day. But how long would it take to copy a Terabyte to floppy disk?

1 Terabyte is 1,000 x 1,000 x 1,000 x 1,000 = 1,000,000,000,000 bytes.

1 floppy disk can hold 1,457,664 bytes.

So to hold a Terabyte you would need 686,030 floppy disks. 16 floppy disks stack 5 cm (2 inches) tall. So your stack would be 214,384 cm high – over 2 kilometers (1.33 miles). That’s quite a stack of disks!

Carrying the Disks

People carry sports bags to work all the time, so wouldn’t look out of place. 75 litres is a standard size in the U.K., so let’s use one of those. Each disk is 8.89 x 9.40 x 0.32 cm = 26.74 cubic centimeters, so we can hold 37.4 disks per litre or 18345 litres to carry all our disks.

So a mere 245 trips using our sports bag will do the trick.

How Long To Copy The Data?

By experiment, I managed to fill 7 floppy disks in just under 6 minutes. So not allowing for any comfort breaks you should be able to fill 1 sports bag of disks in 6 hours 40 minutes. So if you take a sports bag of disks in to work per day, you’ll be able to walk out with a Terabyte of data in 49 weeks.

Of course, after spending nearly a year of spending your working days swapping floppy disks somebody will probably have noticed and rumbled you. Although after carrying over 46kg (100lbs) a day you may be able to hold your own with a security guard for a bit :) .

Just a bit of fun, please don’t try this at home. Or the office.