Watch this before you scrap your next copier

Most large copier / printers retain copies of your documents.

photo by 24thcentury

In this important CBS News report (which is a Flash video clip), reporters purchased three used floor-standing copier / printers, removed their hard drives, and obtained copies of confidential documents including medical records, social security numbers, and criminal investigation documents. This video report is a real eye-opener! Here’s the full CBS News story.The comments from IT professionals to the arstechnica article That old copier still holds a picture of your backside reveal that many IT professionals had no idea that this backdoor to confidential data existed. They also reveal a sense of humor: Shred the whole copier.

Many modern floor-standing copiers also function as printers. In order for them to handle huge print jobs, they store a temporary copy of each print job on an internal hard drive. Most copiers and laser printers count total number of pages printed. The CBS reporters bought discarded copiers with high page counts.

Copier manufacturers are aware of this backdoor. JimboPalmer comments on arstechnica that Xerox offers copier / printer security options. He adds that Xerox copiers can be ordered with automatic and manual hard drive wiping (required for many federal government customers). “Image Overwrite Protection Option This feature electronically “shreds” data stored on the machine’s hard disk during routine printing, scanning, copying or faxing. Electronic removal of data can be performed automatically after every job or on request. Data is overwritten using a 3-Pass algorithm specified in U.S. Department of Defense Directive 5200.28-M.” Sharp offers similar security options — at additional cost.

If your organization owns or leases large copiers/printers, it would be a good idea to follow a policy that ensures that any data that’s stored in such machines is destroyed before disposing of them.

I can’t find a policy statement from Kinko’s regarding images that may remain stored on their copiers.


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