IRS Publication 4812 & How to Comply with Wiping Standards

15 Feb 2023 | Jetico Technical Support
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Organizations that have access to or manage Internal Revenue Service (IRS) data are required to comply with the wiping standards outlined in Publication 4812: Contractor Security & Privacy Controls.

In this blog, we summarize what the IRS says about full disk and selective wiping. Finally, we will share 3 tips on how to implement a successful IRS compliance strategy. 

Publication 4812 in a Nutshell 

  • When?
    Publication 4812: Contractor Security & Privacy Controls came into effect in 2013. The latest edition of the publication, Revision 13, came out in December 2022.  
  • What?
    Publication 4812 was released to identify security requirements for contractors and subcontractors who handle or manage IRS information. Chapter 21: Media Protection is the section of the publication that deals with the IRS wiping standards.  
  • Who? 
    Publication 4812 is mandatory to follow for IRS contractors and contractor personnel who... 
    - Have access to Federal Information or information systems 
    - Are responsible for handling or processing Federal Information or information systems pursuant to or in the course of performance of a contract, order, or agreement with the IRS

What Does Publication 4812 Say about Full Disk Wiping?

Chart showing all approved solutions for IRS full disk wiping

Page 82 of the publication explains that the most common way to clear data is to “perform a disk wipe using a software tool that overwrites all sectors of the disk with positive and negative (0 and 1) values.” The publication goes on to state: “IRS standards require 7 overwrites when the data contains FTI [Federal Tax Information], otherwise 3 passes are acceptable.” 
According to Publication 4812, full-disk wipes must be applied to workstations and laptops. The following 3 software tools are the only solutions that the publication lists as being validated by the International Standards Organization (ISO):  

What Does Publication 4812 Say about Selective Wiping?

Chart showing all approved solutions for IRS selective wiping

Page 82 of the publication says that “partial data clearing can be appropriate for IRS data stored on file servers that also contain other customer information.” Organizations can use software tools to overwrite selected files and folders, therefore retaining the data of other customers. Like with full disk wiping, there are only a few solutions that Publication 4812 lists as being validated by the ISO:  

  • Windows: BCWipe, Erasure, Identity Finder, and Microsoft SDelete
  • MAC: BCWipe and Secure Empty Trash
  • UNIX/Linux: BCWipe and SRM

Prepare to Comply with IRS Publication 4812

By following these 3 steps, you can ensure that your organization is able to comply with IRS wiping standards: 

1. Understand where your data resides 
It's your responsibility to know where your data is, even if you outsource data storage to a cloud provider. Map your data flows and build a clear picture of where your information is located, as well as how it’s being accessed and shared. When the time comes, finding the information to erase will be much faster and easier.  

2. Classify and get organized 
The next step is to get (and stay) organized. Start by creating an inventory – classify data by importance and level of risk. It’s also a good idea to put someone formally in charge of data protection. This sends a message to your customers (and compliance officers) that you take the protection of their data seriously. 

3. Equip the right tools 
What kind of data do you need to erase? Answering this question will help you understand what type of software to use.  

  • If you have sensitive data on a computer that’s no longer needed, then you should use software that’s able to wipe your entire hard drive: BCWipe Total WipeOut for Windows, MAC and UNIX/Linux; Darik's Boot and Nuke or Parted Magic for Windows and UNIX/Linux. Review our 5-step checklist for hardware decommissioning.
  • But if you only have individual files or folders that need to be removed, then you could use a tool that allows you to wipe selected data: BCWipe for Windows, Mac and UNIX/Linux; Erasure, Identity Finder and Microsoft SDelete for Windows; Secure Empty Trash for MAC; SRM for UNIX/Linux. 

Use BCWipe to Comply with IRS Wiping Standards  

Like Publication 4812 says, the way to dispose of sensitive information is to overwrite it with a software tool that’s been validated by the International Standards Organization (ISO). BCWipe is the only solution to deliver both full disk and selective wiping, as well as being the only solution that can be used on all 3 operating systems.  A trusted data wiping solution that securely erases drives and selected files beyond forensic recovery, BCWipe also follows all NIST requirements.  
To get started with Jetico’s data wiping solutions, contact our Data Protection Specialists and request a free trial. To learn more about how to securely wiping your data, read our ultimate guide.

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