What’s the Scoop on the New NSA DVD/Blu-ray Disc Standard?

January 25, 2019 at 8:03 pm by Heidi White

nsa Blu-ray shredderThis past December, the NSA released a complete new set of Evaluated Products Lists for secure document/media destruction devices, all dated 06 November 2018.  Such an extensive new EPL posting was quite a surprise to end users and equipment makers.  Typically, these lists come out in one at a time, often with years between updates.  Seven of them released all at once was unusual and unexpected.

Even more of a surprise was a change in the particle size standard for destroying classified DVD and Blu-ray Discs (BDs).  The change, apparent in the new EPL for Optical Media Destruction Devices, states the new standard as “DVDs and BDs to a maximum edge size of 2mm or less.”  This sudden change has led to a flood of inquiries at SEM from government organizations, so it seemed a good time to address this particular change.

NSA listed DVD shredder
SEM Model 0202 OMD/SSD and OMD/SSD-C shred optical media to less than 2mm and are listed on the 2018 NSA EPL.

The existing CD particle size standard, “CDs to a maximum edge size of 5mm or less,” was not changed.  As a result, looking at the list of products on the EPL, there is a column noting the acceptable materials that indicates whether each device is good for CD, DVD, BD, as well as other non-optical materials for which some of those machines are certified. A key takeaway is that NSA listed optical media destroyers are no longer all the same in terms of what they can destroy.  Users will need to check the EPL to make sure all items they want to destroy are approved.  This could make for a lot of confusion when looking at products on the market.

Yet another uncertainty is the timeline for users to make a changeover.  The EPLs do not give a transition period to switch to new machines, or grandfather the use of existing equipment.  In the past, when the NSA changed a standard for shredders or media destroyers, there was some time allowed to comply.  So far, there has been no announcement of that for the new DVD/Blu-ray standard, but many government entities are hopeful for such an announcement.

What does this mean for the status of existing optical media destroyers in use and on the market? The change is significant.  The great majority of optical media shredders that are in use are no longer shown on the EPL as approved for DVD or Blu-ray.  This includes the most popular optical media shredders on the market and almost all document and multi-media disintegrators. Producing a 2mm particle with no oversized particles is simply not possible with those machines.

SEM Model 0200 OMD/SSD-C is a cabinet version of the NSA listed CD/DVD/BD shredder

Only a few machines on the EPL for optical media destroyers have approval for DVD and BD. Of those, most are solid state media destroyers, which are large, expensive machines that cost $65,000 and up.  Users seeking a compact, affordable machine to destroy optical media can choose a machine like the SEM Model 0200 OMD/SSD.  Even better is the recently announced version of this machine with a more office-friendly configuration, the Model 0200 OMD/SSD-C.  The new version will better suit most customers with its attractive cabinet and better sound proofing for the vacuum versus the tabletop style of the standard version.  Both versions of the 0200 grind optical discs (not just the surfaces) into the NSA required particle size, which looks like beach sand.  The waste is collected and bagged by a vacuum.  These devices are not quite as user friendly as standard optical media shredders, like the SEM Model 0201 OMD.  Users who only have CDs, no DVDs or Blu-ray, will surely be happier with a machine like the 0201 OMD.

As an aside, another change on the optical media destruction device EPL, and the other EPLs, is that the NSA is no longer publishing official throughput rates.  In recent years these rates were on the EPLs.  This was a way for folks to check the claims made by vendors on capabilities.  The EPLs now direct users to the manufacturers to get throughput data.  In terms of optical media, the rating in question is the number of discs per hour.

At the end of the day, the NSA EPL is the golden standard for all types of secure data destruction, whether government or commercial, and must be followed for the destruction of classified and top secret data. SEM has over 50 years of experience with the destruction of sensitive and secret data and is here to help anyone who has questions on or needs assistance with the new EPLs.

Bob Glicker, Mid-Atlantic Regional Sales Manager, has over 35 total years of sales experience with over 23 years of targeted government sales experience. Bob prides himself on providing the highest level of service to his government clients, and he enjoys working with key resellers. Bob received his BS in Chemistry from the University of Maryland, College Park. In his free time, Bob enjoys a variety of activities including gym workouts, cycling, reading, and listening to podcasts. He is also an avid science lover, an amateur juggler, a vegetarian, and the quintessential family guy.

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Heidi White

Heidi is Director of Marketing at SEM and is passionate about data security, health and fitness, and her family.