Summary: 'Zeroes' Data wiping algorithm also known as the Zero fill method involves overwriting all data on a hard drive or other storage devices with Zeroes (0s). This is considered a safe and reliable data erasure algorithm that can be used to permanently wipe all types of devices and drives quickly. This blog will discuss the Zero overwrite method and list the advantages of using it for your data-wiping requirements.
The ‘Zeroes’ data-wiping algorithm is considered to be one of the earliest methods of overwriting data. Its origins cannot be clearly stated, but we can see its mention in the MFM (Modified Frequency Modulation) hard drive interface that was first introduced in the 1970s. The DoD 5220.22-M National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual (NISPOM) also mentions Zeroes as an overwriting method that uses single pass overwrite with all Zeroes (0s). One of the earliest mentions of the Zero Pass Data Erasure can be found in the DoD 5220.22-M NISPOM manual section, “Clearing and Sanitization Matrix,” where point c says, “Overwrite all addressable locations with a single character.” And point h says, “Overwrite all locations with a random pattern, all locations with binary zeros, all locations with binary ones.”
It is often considered the fastest data-wiping algorithm and can erase data permanently beyond recovery. However, since the introduction of more secure standards like DoD 5220.22 M & NIST SP 800-88 (National Institute of Standards and Technology), the Zeroes data erasure method has taken a backseat for wiping sensitive data, especially in the cases where there is a stringent requirement of following laws and regulations. In case there aren’t any rigorous security requirements for complying with regulations then Zeroes is the best method for data wiping. Let’s look at why Zeroes is still considered a good option for wiping drives and devices.
What are the Advantages of a Zero Pass Data Erasure Algorithm?
There are several advantages to using a Zero Pass Erasure for your data wiping needs, a few important ones are listed below:
- Quick Erasure: Zero Pass Erasure employs a single pass of binary Zeroes (0s) for overwriting data. Since it only overwrites data once, the time taken by it to overwrite each storage sector is significantly less than the standards that overwrite using 3 or more passes. For Example, if you are wiping a 100 GB Hard Drive, you will take around 30 minutes to wipe the drive using a Zero Pass Erasure overwrite. On the other hand, if you use a 3 Pass method it would take approximately 120 minutes or more. Note: The time taken depends upon the speed of the hard drive, computer, RAM, and the software being used for wiping.
- Permanent Erasure: As stated by NIST, a single overwrite pass with a fixed pattern is enough to permanently wipe data across storage devices. So using a Zero Pass Erasure is good enough to wipe your personal data beyond recovery. However, NIST recommends that verification be done in tandem, and that’s why we recommend using NIST 800-88 Clear. It combines a single-pass algorithm with verification.
- Meeting Compliance: Businesses are governed by regulatory bodies and many of them mandate permanent data disposal with proof of destruction. Using a professional data wiping tool like BitRaser you can erase using Zeroes and generate a proof of erasure to help meet compliance. BitRaser gives you the option to choose a verification method along with a Zeroes pass. This helps fulfill stringent compliance requirements too.
- SSD Erasure: NIST Clear prescribes using at least a single overwrite pass to wipe drives and SSDs. A single overwrite pass could be all Zeroes or Ones.
The advantages of using a Zero Pass Erasure emphasize the fact that it can be a quick and efficient overwriting algorithm. If regulations or your organizational policies do not require the use of a specialized overwriting algorithm such as NIST or DoD, then Zero Pass Erasure can be the go-to algorithm for you. So, next time when you want to wipe your storage device, you may use the Zero Pass algorithm to ensure the permanent removal of data from your device and safeguard against the invasion of privacy.
Is 1 pass erase enough?
Yes, according to NIST SP 800-88 Rev 1, one pass overwrite with binary Zeros or Ones is enough to erase data permanently.