h a l f b a k e r y
Naturally, seismology provides the answer.
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I know there have been other topics regarding wiping hard drives of all data instantly. Mostly involving thermite. This is another idea for the "FBI breaking down the door" scenario where you have to permanantly delete your data in 2 seconds.
Right above the hard drive install a thermal battery,
with two contacts on either side of your hard disk, and a set of physical switches protruding from the case. When both of the switches are flipped the thermal battery sends a powerful electric current through the drive permanantly wiping all of the data, and probably destroying the computer. The two switches must be flipped in opposite directions to prevent accidental discharge.
I chose thermal batteries because they have an extremely long shelf life but can reach peak voltage in milliseconds, creating an effect much like a capacitor. This would eliminate the risk of the sytstem not working if the power was cut. However due to the operating temperature of the thermal battery it is also possible that the HDD will be physically destroyed, which is just a plus in this case.
You can get these at Lowe's, right!??? [DIYMatt, May 23 2009]
||Then maybe a dead-man switch, of sorts? You put a transmitting device in your house which sends the "don't kill computer" signal. If the feds remove the computer from your house as evidence as soon as it goes out of range of the transmitter the thermal battery activates.