Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Security Risk Posed by Your Digital Copier

The Data Trove Hidden In Your Copier

While you’re busy making sure your data is safe by encrypting your wireless network, sending emails over a secure connection, and storing your backups in a highly secured remote location, what are the chances that you’re still putting your information at risk?

It turns out that nearly every digital copier made since 2002 stores scans of every image they copy on an internal flash or hard drive. These hard drives don’t have an endless amount of memory, so over time they’ll overwrite old files with new ones. But still, the fact remains that if you’ve recently copied confidential company documents, images of those documents are living inside your copier. And that means they’re available to anybody who buys your used copier through a warehouse or reseller that hasn’t bothered to wipe your drive.

So what to do about this problem? Just be aware that, before you retire or resell your copier, it’s your responsibility to get confidential information off its hard drive or risk the consequences -- which could be anything from having your data sold to identity thieves to finding your company in breach of major privacy regulations such as HIPAA.

According to CBS News, who did a big story on digital copiers back in April, "All the major manufacturers told us they offer security or encryption packages on their products." In other words, while data protection is your responsibility, manufacturers are trying to do their part to help (even if they aren’t always screaming it from the rooftops). The amount you’ll have to pay for security and encryption add-ons varies by manufacturer, of course, and there are also third-party security providers who sell software that will wipe your copier’s drive for you.

Bottom line: it will cost you some money to make sure you’re not giving away data along with your old copier. But when you consider the alternative – allowing digital scans of paycheck stubs, employee social security numbers, bank routing numbers, and the kind of information that digital thieves could resell for top dollar – it’s worth it.