Security Corner

Apr 26 2010   8:03PM GMT

Security Risk of Digital Copiers

Ken Harthun Ken Harthun Profile: Ken Harthun

As if we don’t already have enough to deal with, now we must add digital copiers to our list of security risks. Seems that most modern copiers (those manufactured 2002 or later) including Ricoh, Canon, Sharp and others, are loaded with secrets about the organization where they reside, the people who have used them, customers and competitors, even the fanny of that cute temp who got drunk at the office party. The reason? Nearly every digital copier built since 2002 contains a hard drive and that hard drive stores an image of every document copied, scanned, or emailed by the machine.

Ten days ago, CBS ran a segment on the Evening News entitled “Copy Machines, A Security Risk?” Watch the video here.

This past February, CBS News went with [John] Juntunen [of Digital Copier Security] to a warehouse in New Jersey, one of 25 across the country, to see how hard it would be to buy a used copier loaded with documents. It turns out … it’s pretty easy.

After buying four copiers, they started to examine them. One of the copiers had documents still on the copier glass, from the Buffalo, N.Y., Police Sex Crimes Division. Another machine from the Buffalo Police Narcotics Unit revealed the targets of a narcotics raid. The third machine contained copies of pay stubs that revealed names, addresses and social security numbers. On the fourth machine from a New York insurance company, they found 300 pages of medical records that included prescriptions, blood test results and the like.

It’s not that the manufacturers of these products are negligent; all of them offer options to either encrypt or erase the documents. The problem is that the people who lease the copiers either don’t understand or don’t want to pay for the protection the options provide.

Ignorance is no excuse; failing to implement suitable security is negligence and a serious breach of federal privacy laws. Besides that, once a used copier leaves the warehouse, there’s no telling where it might end up. The CBS reporter gave this summary:

The day we visited the New Jersey warehouse, two shipping containers packed with used copiers were headed overseas – loaded with secrets on their way to unknown buyers in Argentina and Singapore.

How we lookin’? Not good.

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