Delete all your emails and acid wash your hard drives, says security expert Sean Hannity

Don’t forget to smash your phone into “itsy bitsy pieces”, advises Fox News anchor.

Delete all your emails and acid wash your hard drives, says security expert Sean Hannity

Some people don’t know if you should trust the media anymore, with accusations of fake news flying here, there, and everywhere.

Which makes me wonder who can you trust for computer security advice?

The two worlds have just collided with Fox News anchor Sean Hannity (who may or may not have sought advice from time to time from Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen) seeming to suggest to witnesses in the Russia probe to delete evidence before handing devices over to special counsel Robert Mueller.

Sign up to our free newsletter.
Security news, advice, and tips.

“If I advised them to follow Hillary Clinton’s lead: Delete all your emails and then acid-wash the emails on the hard drives and your phones, then take your phones and bash them with a hammer to little itsy bitsy pieces, use BleachBit, remove the SIM cards, and then take the pieces and hand them over to Robert Mueller and say: ‘Hillary Rodham Clinton, this is equal justice under the law.'”

Hannity’s advice comes after media reports that Mueller’s team have asked witnesses to hand over personal smartphones which may have used encrypted messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Signal, Confide, and Dust.

I’m going to presume that, if asked, Hannity would emphasise that he isn’t suggesting witnesses actually destroy evidence, as it’s unlikely to go down well with the authorities.

Furthermore, it would perhaps be a mistake to assume that no breadcrumbs of evidence of communications would be held in the cloud or at an external service which couldn’t care less if you put your phone in the blender or not.

Of course, if you are disposing of computers, hard drives, or smartphones then it makes sense to ensure that they are wiped securely, and minimise the possibility that someone else can recover any sensitive data.

But tread carefully if you are a witness in an investigation by law enforcement, whatever side of the political fence you sit on, as they might view it as an attempt to obstruct justice.

Regardless, Hannity’s advice comes too late for Paul Manafort, who has found that use of an encrypted messaging app wasn’t enough to stop his private communications being read by the FBI.

Graham Cluley is an award-winning keynote speaker who has given presentations around the world about cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. A veteran of the computer security industry since the early 1990s, he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows, makes regular media appearances, and is the co-host of the popular "Smashing Security" podcast. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky, or drop him an email.

14 comments on “Delete all your emails and acid wash your hard drives, says security expert Sean Hannity”

  1. Tom

    I heard Hannity's when he made the comment… He was being satirical. Text is too dry and the snippet too short. Watching the entire circus (all sides) it is very disconcerting and I don't understand why more people aren't upset over the loss of privacy we have lost over the past few years in the name of national safety.

    1. Graham CluleyGraham Cluley · in reply to Tom

      Yes, whenever I see Hannity with my British eyes I do find it hard to believe he's being serious. I certainly hope no-one fails to get the joke and makes the mistake of following his advice – as they could end up in hot water.

      You can see the full segment on YouTube here:

  2. Charles Waggon

    Of course, Hannity's advice was illustrating absurdity by being absurd. Acid-washing the hard drives and smashing the devices is EXACTLY what Hillary Clinton did to hide her unlawful bathroom server. In other words, if it was OK for her to do it, then it must be OK for you. Right?

    1. Graham CluleyGraham Cluley · in reply to Charles Waggon

      I think you're right.

      And if we're both right, we can anticipate that Sean Hannity will advise witnesses to willingly assist the investigation and hand over their unwiped electronic devices to law enforcement.

      And, as I've written in the past, I agree that Hillary Clinton hardly showered herself in glory with her ill-advised use of a personal email server.

      1. Charles Waggon · in reply to Graham Cluley

        I'll accept advice from my lawyer instead of an entertainer, thank you very much. :)

  3. Bill Smith

    >> But tread carefully if you are a witness in an investigation by law enforcement, whatever side of the political fence you sit on, as they might view it as an attempt to obstruct justice.

    Except if you're Hillary Clinton.
    Which was Hannity's point.

  4. Spryte

    I just find it difficult to comprehend how I would use BleachBit after I'd bashed my phones "with a hammer to little itsy bitsy pieces". :-o

  5. Nigel

    Graham: OUCH! You've obviously never listened to Hannity. He makes no pretense to being qualified to advise people on security matters. He wasn't telling anyone to do anything so stupid as what Clinton did.

    He was making a point that the same standard of justice should be applied to all, and that if she can evade indictment and prosecution as a criminal by destroying evidence, then let's see what happens if others try it.

    He knows full well what will happen: they won't get away with it, because we do NOT have equal justice for all. Anyone who actually takes the time to listen to his remarks in context knows that. People who don't and read this article will come away misinformed.

    You generally manage to stay out of the sewer of politics, Graham, which is why I'm still a reader. Unless the point of the article is to take sides in a political squabble by discrediting a political commentator, it's a non-issue. Hannity is not the idiot this article makes him out to be.

    1. John · in reply to Nigel

      Yes, he is. Hannity is a danger to the U.S. and complete and utter fool.

    2. HannityHater · in reply to Nigel

      Yeah, no he is a vicious propaganda machine. People like hannity spread hate and violence.

      1. Nigel · in reply to HannityHater

        Such well-reasoned, compelling, well-supported arguments: "danger to the U.S."; "complete and utter fool"; "vicious propaganda machine"; "hate and violence"…and that last one by someone using the name "HannityHater".

        Very convincing.

  6. Jake

    Thanks for the full article explaining why one shouldn't follow advice that was never meant to be followed. Great to see a "security expert" writing click bait.

  7. Confused

    damn regardless of your political position, and I can't imagine why Graham would decide to enter the arena, it's bewildering to think that a security expert could be duped by media wagging a dog's tale. think – all you can sell is credibility – tainted your advice is meaningless.

  8. Etaoin Shrdlu

    A lightning rod is meant to draw lightning. If he was a liberal, the apologists and enablers would be all over this, but as he is not, they attack him for their deliberately deaf literal interpretations.

What do you think? Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.