Tag Archives: DBAN

The HumbleLab: Desk of Death – Build a PXE Boot DBAN Station using pfSense and CentOS

I am become Death, destroyer of data.

Data sanitation is a required albeit tedious part of being a Systems Administrator. Last week I noticed that we had quite a few old machines piling up around our office and finding myself with a few spare hours I decided to see if I could speed up the process of scrubbing their hard drives using the ubiquitous Derik’s Boot and Nuke (DBAN). An important note, the mathematics and mechanics of using disks scrubbing software is actually fairly complex, especially when Solid State Drives are involved. My recommendation to you is to check with your security team to make sure your method of disk scrubbing is sufficient. Deguassing and physical destruction using an NSA approved methodology may be the only approved method for certain types of organizations. If you don’t have a security team or a regulatory compliance scheme that you have to comply with that specifies what your media disposal standards are the NIST standards are great place to start.

Disclaimers out of the way, now onto the fun stuff. Here’s what the old system looked like: A help desk tech would boot a CD, load DBAN into memory, select the drive/s to be wiped and then press Enter. This took a few minutes in addition to the time it took to setup the old workstation with power, a keyboard and a monitor. Here’s what I wanted: Plug in a monitor, keyboard and a network cable, turn the computer on, Press F12, pick Network Boot and move on.

To do this I setup an isolated VM on my lab (The HumbleLab) to run a TFTP service in conjunction with the DHCP services already offered by pfSense. Using an old workstation would of also worked just fine if you didn’t have an existing lab setup.

1. Install CentOS and configure networking

You will need to get a minimal install of CentOS setup. There are plenty of guides out there but this one is pretty nice. There’s always the official Red Hat documentation too. Configure a static IP address, fire off a quick su -c yum update to update your system and that should be enough to get you going. I had two physical NICs in my Hyper-V hosts so I dedicated one to my “DBAN” network, created a External Virtual Network with it and added a vNIC connected to that virtual switch to my new CentOS DBAN server.

2. Install and configure the TFTP service

Now we need to get our SYSLINUX bootloaders installed and a TFTP service setup. Lets install both and copy the SYSLINUX bootloaders into the tftpboot path.

Create a pxelinux.cfg directory along with a default configuration file.

Fire up your favorite text editor and edit the newly created configuration file:

Make sure that clients can pull the resulting files from the tftpboot directory:

Last but not least go ahead and start the TFTP service. You could choose to enable the service so it starts automatically but I personally like to start and stop it at will as a kind of weak safety check since it does automatically boot DBAN without user intervention.


3. Create a new interface and DHCP scope in pfSense

Unfortunately I lost my screenshots here so we’ll have to just go by feel. You will need to perform the following steps:

  • Add a new vNIC to your pfSesne VM that is connected to your DBAN External Virtual Network.
  • Use the pfSense web interface to assign the new vNIC as an interface.
  • Create a corresponding DHCP scope for your DBAN subnet. This is a good place to stop and test your current configuration. Plug a laptop in and see if you get a DHCP lease and test connectivity to both the pfSense interface and the CentOS DBAN server. If you’re not getting a lease and/or cannot contact both of those interfaces you will need to correct whatever is wrong with your network configuration before you proceed.
  • Modify your DHCP scope to “enable network booting”. Specify the IP address of the DBAN server, set the filename to ‘pxelinux.0’


Plug a victim computer into your DBAN network choose boot from network. You should be presented with that glorious blue screen of impending doom.