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DoD 5220.22-M: Everything You Need to Know About the NISP Operating Manual

What is DoD 5220.22-M and Why Do You Need It?

If you have ever dealt with classified or sensitive data, you may have heard of DoD 5220.22-M, a media sanitization standard established by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). But what exactly is DoD 5220.22-M and why do you need it? In this article, we will explain what DoD 5220.22-M is, how it works, how to download and use it, and what are its alternatives and limitations.

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DoD 5220.22-M: A Media Sanitization Standard for Classified Data

DoD 5220.22-M, also known as the National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual (NISPOM), is a document that specifies the standard procedures and requirements for sanitizing information systems (i.e., data storage media) that handle classified information. It applies to all contractors, licensees, grantees, or certificate holders who require access to classified information or who operate or access information systems on behalf of the U.S. Government.

The History and Purpose of DoD 5220.22-M

DoD 5220.22-M was first published in January 1995 as a part of the National Industrial Security Program (NISP), which was established by Executive Order 12829 in 1993. The NISP aimed to safeguard classified information within industry in a uniform manner and to reduce the administrative burden and cost of industrial security. DoD 5220.22-M was updated in July 1997 with Change 1, which added new materials indicated by vertical bars.

The purpose of DoD 5220.22-M is to ensure that classified information is properly protected from unauthorized disclosure or compromise by preventing its recovery from data storage media after it is no longer needed. This is achieved by using data destruction methods that overwrite the data with patterns of ones, zeros, or random characters, making it impossible to retrieve the original data with any known technology.

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The Data Destruction Methods of DoD 5220.22-M

DoD 5220.22-M defines two data destruction methods for different levels of security:

  • The Clearing method is used for unclassified or low-level classified data that does not require a high degree of assurance that the data is unrecoverable. It involves overwriting all addressable locations on the media with a single character or a fixed pattern.

  • The Purging method is used for high-level classified data that requires a high degree of assurance that the data is unrecoverable. It involves overwriting all addressable locations on the media with a character, its complement, a random character, and then verifying the final overwrite pass.

These methods are also known as the DoD three-pass method or the DoD seven-pass method, depending on whether they use three or seven overwrite passes respectively. They are designed to prevent data recovery by commercially available processes or software tools.

How to Download and Use DoD 5220.22-M for Data Wiping

If you want to use DoD 5220.22-M for data wiping, you will need to download a software program that implements the standard and use a software program that implements the standard and allows you to wipe your data securely. There are many data wiping software programs that claim to support DoD 5220.22-M, but not all of them are reliable or effective. Here are some of the best DoD wipe software programs that you can download and use for data wiping in Windows 11, 10, 8, and 7: - Blancco Drive Eraser: This is a professional data erasure software that delivers DoD 5220.22-M (3 pass) and M ECE (7 pass) wiping capabilities, as well as other data destruction standards and certifications. It can erase any type of storage device, including HDDs, SSDs, USB drives, SD cards, etc. It also provides detailed reports and certificates of erasure that prove compliance with data protection regulations. - MiniTool Partition Wizard: This is a versatile partition manager that also offers a data wiping feature that supports DoD 5220.22-M (3 pass) and other wiping methods. It can wipe any partition or disk on your computer, as well as external devices. It also allows you to resize, format, clone, migrate, and recover partitions and disks. - DiskPart: This is a built-in command-line tool in Windows that can perform various disk operations, including data wiping. It can execute DoD 5220.22-M (3 pass) by using the clean all command. It can wipe any disk that is connected to your computer, but it requires some technical skills and caution to use it correctly. The Requirements and Precautions for Using DoD 5220.22-M

Before you use DoD 5220.22-M for data wiping, you should be aware of some requirements and precautions that apply to this method:

  • You should backup any important data that you want to keep before wiping the media, as the process is irreversible and will destroy all data on the media.

  • You should ensure that the media is in good working condition and has no bad sectors or errors, as these may prevent the overwriting process from completing successfully.

  • You should verify that the media is compatible with the software program that you are using for data wiping, as some programs may not support certain types of media or storage technologies.

  • You should follow the instructions and settings of the software program carefully and choose the appropriate wiping method for your security level and needs.

  • You should monitor the progress and status of the wiping process and check for any errors or failures that may occur.

  • You should dispose of the media properly after wiping it, according to the applicable laws and regulations.

The Steps to Download and Use DoD 5220.22-M

The steps to download and use DoD 5220.22-M for data wiping may vary depending on the software program that you choose, but here is a general guide that you can follow:

  • Download the software program from its official website or a trusted source and install it on your computer.

  • Launch the software program and select the media that you want to wipe from the list of available devices.

  • Select the DoD 5220.22-M method or its variant from the list of available wiping methods.

  • Confirm your selection and start the wiping process.

  • Wait for the process to finish and check the report or certificate of erasure.

The Alternatives and Limitations of DoD 5220.22-M

DoD 5220.22-M is not the only data destruction standard or method that you can use for data wiping. There are other alternatives that may offer different levels of security, speed, or convenience. Here are some of them:

The Other Data Destruction Standards and Software

There are many other data destruction standards and software programs that you can use for data wiping, such as:

  • NIST SP 800-88: This is a guideline published by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) that provides recommendations for media sanitization. It defines three types of sanitization methods: clear, purge, and destroy. It also provides a list of approved tools and techniques for each method.

  • Gutmann Method: This is a data sanitization method proposed by Peter Gutmann in 1996 that involves overwriting the media with 35 passes of pseudorandom data. It was designed to prevent data recovery from older HDDs with magnetic force microscopy (MFM) or scanning probe microscopy (SP M) techniques. However, it is considered obsolete and overkill for modern HDDs and SSDs.

  • DBAN: This is a free and open-source data wiping software that can perform various data sanitization methods, including DoD 5220.22-M, Gutmann, and NIST. It can wipe any type of storage device, but it does not provide any verification or certification of erasure.

Eraser: This is another free and open-source data wiping softwa


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