Tabernus has launched an all-encompassing piece of data wiping software that will wipe out every last bit from SCSI Or Fibre Channel hard drives. And that comes certified by the US Department of Defence (DoD).

However, Disk Purge costs $995 (£620) and competing products such as Disk Wipe cost just £49.95. There are also numerous PC utilities such as Internet History Eraser for just $29.99. So where does Tabernus' product fit in? "These products are for PC disks and don't deal with the spare sector issue," we were told. The DoD specifies that all sectors of a disk, written and unused, should be over-written.

Dataquest estimated that nearly 150 million disk drives were retired in 2002, up from 130 million in 2001. A significant number of these went for re-use. Scrapping or re-purposing hard drives that contain sensitive data is a problem. Companies can be liable to penalties if such data becomes available to non-authorised users.

The Tabernus software is guaranteed to completely erase all data from one or more disk drives. This allows disks with sensitive or classified information to be sanitised and re-used. Disk Purge will help you cleanse disks if you have to be compliant with the following Acts:

  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
  • Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA)
  • Sarbanes-Oxley Act
  • The Patriot Act
  • Display Topology
  • Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act

The product is a development of an existing disk purging product used by Boeing, HP, Lockheed Martin, NASA, Motorola, the United States Navy, Air Force and Army. The user interface has been changed to make the disk declassification process much more usable.

A user selects devices in the device tree (similar to Windows) and clicks the Start button. The declassification and purging process is multi-threaded and operates on several drives at once. Its algorithm erases data from all of a disk's spare blocks by overwriting them with three series of data patterns. It then does three series of overwrites on the entire drive. For every series, the data from a validate block is saved to a file. This file may be used later to view, print and validate that the drive has been completely purged.

There are two DoD standards dealing with sanitising disks: 5200.28 and 5220-22-M. The DoD has approved the use of products such as No Trace, DataEraser, UniShred Pro, CleanDrive and Sanitizer. A Los Angeles Technologies spokesperson said that the equivalent UniShred Pro license to the Data Purge one costs $450. He also said that, "Our product is guaranteed to wipe the disks". Regarding the cheaper sub-$50 products he said, "You get what you pay for. There have been issues with running and reliability."

Disk Wipe also meets the 5220-22-M standard. Other standards met are: NCSC-TG-025, AFSSI 5020, OPNAV 5510 and AR-380-19. It's obvious that the area is a minefield and purchasers should understand clearly any differences between the two DoD standards and differences between competing products also before making their choice.