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What is the Use of DoD 5220.22-M Wiping Standard For Drive Erasure?

Do you know what is the use of DoD 5220.22-m wiping standard for drive erasure? Numerous standards have been defined over the past few decades to regulate data wiping & other data destruction techniques for safe and compliant media sanitization practices. Media sanitization or data sanitization is vital for businesses to prevent loss of confidential & sensitive data from storage media such as USB flash drives, hard drives, servers, etc.

For data erasure, these standards dictate the overwrite patterns and paths established by government agencies and private institutions around the world. For example, DoD (the US Department of Defense), the US Air Force & the US Navy have their data erasure standards.

This article provides information on the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) standard 5220.22-M for unit wiping. It gives you an overview of how to implement the hard drive wiping standard on an industrial scale using Department of Defense data wiping software.

What Do You Mean by the DoD 5220.22-M Standard?

It is widely recognized data wiping method used by government agencies & organizations around the world to wipe drives. Also, it specifies the standard procedures and necessities for sanitizing information systems that handle classified information. It is recommended to overwrite and check all addressable locations with a character, its complement. And then a random character to erase and clean the information on the storage media.

What is the Process of The DoD 5220.22-M Data Wiping Standard?

Specifies a process for overwriting HDDs (hard disk drives) with cartridges of ones and zeros. The standard characterize the implementation of three secure overwrite passes with verification at the end of the last pass.

The following passes conform to the US Department of Defense data erasure standard:

  • Pass 1 – All addressable positions are overwrite with binary zeros.
  • Pass 2 – All addressable positions are overwrite with binary ones.
  • and Pass 3 – All addressable positions are overwrite with a random character.

There are other iterations of the DoD standard with alterations in the use of characters, their completion, and the frequency of checks. For example, a modified version of DoD 5220.22-M uses the number 97 instead of a random character for the last pass.

Basis of the US DoD (Department of Defense) Data Wiping Algorithm

In 1995, it was developed for high security institutions like the Pentagon etc. At the time of its introduction and removal from hardware, the standard had set a benchmark for data erasure with its Department of Defense Information Assurance Certification and Accreditation Process (DIACAP).

It was published by the United States Department of Defense (DoD) in the National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual (NISPOM or Department of Defense Document #5220.22-M).

Why Should Use the DoD 5220.22-M Standard Wiping?

It offers one of the most recognize data destruction methods and is still consider one of the industry standards for HDD erasers in the US. When you have a HDD with high-capacity or a lot of storage drives in your inventory, The DoD 5220.22-M data erasure method takes less time compared to other more comprehensive data wipe methods, such as the Gutmann standard, which includes 30 passes.

In addition, the DoD 5220.22-M data erasure standard performs a check at the end of every pass. This ensures that the data is overwritten correctly. In addition to zeros and ones, DoD 5220.22-M uses random characters to overwrite locations on a disk. The inclusion of random characters reduces the chance of data recovery.

How Do We Implement the DoD 5220.22-M Erasure Standard?

As part of their data deletion practices, the information security policy of many federal, state, and private companies requires implementation of the DoD 5220.22-M standard.

Using professional DoD data erasure software, You can implement the DoD 5220.22-M standard such as BitRecover BitWipe Tool, which can implement DoD 5220.22-M and other global standards to assist government agencies & private organizations with regulatory compliance. Using this utility you can erase data from all storage devices.

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What is the Limitation of the DoD 5220.22-M Deletion Standard?

Although the Department of Defense Data Erasure Standard was consider the gold standard for data destruction, for many years it was superseded by other recent standards, for ex – NIST SP 800-88. The main reason is the limitations of this method with regards to wiping flash memory. It was not design to wipe chip-based memory, such as SSD. Because of this, many government organizations such as the DoD, the Department of Energy, the Nuclear Regulatory Agency, the Canadian Standards Association, etc. they no longer cite DoD 5220.22-M as a standard for secure erasure.

Last Thoughts

DoD 5220.22-M Wiping Standard still has a lot of credibility and is highly regarded for offering a robust 3-pass wipe that is detailed and efficient. Thus, many institutions follow the DoD standard as part of their HDD destruction and erasure policies.

Department of Defense compliant data erasure software tools, such as BitRecover Bitwipe Tool, help erase hard drives according to the Department of Defense standard and generate tamper-proof certificates & reports for audit trails.


National Industrial Security Program (NISP): https://www.dcsa.mil/mc/ctp/nisp/


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