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ING Bank’s main data center in Bucharest, Romania, was severely damaged over the weekend during a fire extinguishing test. In what is a very rare but known phenomenon, it was the loud sound of inert gas being released that destroyed dozens of hard drives. The site is currently offline and the bank relies solely on its backup data center, located within a couple of miles’ proximity.

“The drill went as designed, but we had collateral damage”, ING’s spokeswoman said…

The purpose of the drill was to see how the data center’s fire suppression system worked. Data centers typically rely on inert gas to protect the equipment in the event of a fire, as the substance does not chemically damage electronics…The gas is stored in cylinders, and is released at high velocity out of nozzles uniformly spread across the data center.

According to people familiar with the system, the pressure at ING Bank’s data center was higher than expected, and produced a loud sound – think about the noise a steam engine releases – The bank monitored the sound and it was very loud, a source familiar with the system told us. It was as high as their equipment could monitor, over 130dB”.

Sound means vibration, and this is what damaged the hard drives. The HDD cases started to vibrate, and the vibration was transmitted to the read/write heads, causing them to go off the data tracks.

In ING Bank’s case, it was “like putting a storage system next to a [running] jet engine,”

The Bank said it required 10 hours to restart its operation due to the magnitude and the complexity of the damage…Over the next few weeks, every single piece of equipment will need to be assessed. ING Bank’s main data center is compromised “for the most part”

A catastrophic failover to the backup data center. That’s a helluva noise.



  1. Mr Diesel - says:

    Reminds me of having head crashes on those 80MB CDC 14inch platter drives on an aircraft carrier.

    The gaps were small back then and I can’t imagine what they are now.

  2. NewFormatSux says:

    Give me money or I’ll scream.

  3. Resonant Frequency says:

    Maybe a disk wouldn’t break, but what about the R/W head clearance between it and the disk surface?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QGk8nXs6Aao

    http://www.discovery.com/tv-shows/mythbusters/videos/adam-savage-on-breaking-glass/

  4. rmiller says:

    Why would a bank be using moving part hard drives? Why would they be using SSD where no vibration would hurt it at all?

  5. bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist says:

    it saddens me that something evidently so well known was allowed to happen……………. making me think, its NOT all that well known.

    Better known now? Can we count how many people/types screwed up?

    Those who recommended the system, approved it, installed it, ran testing it etc??? All kinds of “experts” showing their humanity. THIS is what industry standards are all about.

    This is the first I’ve heard of such an issue BUT it should never happen again. Lets wait and see……………… ha, ha.

  6. McCullough says:

    What about earthquakes?

    Anybody here remember when Compaq used shock mounted drives in their desktop units?

    Now even notebooks use motion detection to park the heads before damage. You would think this would be integrated in these drives as well. Especially in California.

    Maybe they’re just old.

    • jpfitz says:

      I had a Compaq at work and home. The work machine had the vibration dampening.

      I’m thinking the sound was a loud high frequency that vibrated the platters, dampeners wouldn’t help in this case, I think, not sure.

  7. sensor operator says:

    “What happens when a terrorist network (ISIS) finds a way to activate terrorists using social media (neatly piercing the security defenses that we pay hundreds of billions of $$ for every year) to randomly attack civilians (like the knife attack in Roanoke VA last week)?

    You get a society at a tipping point.”
    http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/globalguerrillas/2016/08/hacking-the-us-with-only-a-sound.html

    It’s easier to close a bank than hack it.


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