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posted Feb 12, 2012, 10:15 AM by David Khorram
National Institute of Standards and Technology, NIST Special Publication 800-88

Purging information is a media sanitization process that protects the confidentiality of information against a laboratory attack. For some media, clearing media would not suffice for purging. However, for ATA disk drives manufactured after 2001 (over 15 GB) the terms clearing and purging have converged. A laboratory attack would involve a threat with the resources and knowledge to use nonstandard systems to conduct data recovery attempts on media outside their normal operating environment. This type of attack involves using signal processing equipment and specially trained personnel. Executing the firmware Secure Erase command (for ATA drives only) and degaussing are examples of acceptable methods for purging. Degaussing of any hard drive assembly usually destroys the drive as the firmware that manages the device is also destroyed. Degaussing is exposing the magnetic media to a strong magnetic field in order to disrupt the recorded magnetic domains. A degausser is a device that generates a magnetic field used to sanitize magnetic media. Degaussers are rated based on the type (i.e., low energy or high energy) of magnetic media they can purge. Degaussers operate using either a strong permanent magnet or an electromagnetic coil. Degaussing can be an effective method for purging damaged media, for purging media with exceptionally large storage capacities, or for quickly purging diskettes. Degaussing is not effective for purging nonmagnetic media, such as optical media [compact discs (CD), digital versatile discs (DVD), etc.). [SP 800-36, Guide to Selecting Information Security Products]