Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Did You Know Digital Copiers Retain Images on Hard Drives?

Did you know that a photocopier's hard drive might be keeping unauthorized copies of your personal records? The hard drives on almost every digital copier made since 2002 (such as these pictured above) store images of all copies made on them. Anyone can take personal information from photocopiers unless their hard drives are scrubbed clean. This year is the 50th anniversary of the old-fashioned copy machine, yet advanced technology has opened up a hole in data security: copiers are computers that keep data.

Secondhand American photocopy machines are routinely resold around the world through intermediaries. The general public should be aware that copied private information can travel to wherever photocopiers are resold. When private information is copied anywhere by these large digital copiers, it can be kept available years into the future for unauthorized use in unexpected locations. Those photocopiers are sent on to locations around the world where computer hackers and terrorists could conceivably steal or hijack them to obtain personal records.

CBS News bought four used copiers from a warehouse in New Jersey and  none of them had been scrubbed clean. Half an hour after hard drives were removed, investigators had downloaded thousands of previously copied documents using a free software program available on the internet.  The previous owners of the photocopier, the law department within an American city's police department, didn't know that confidential information was retained on the photocopiers they leased. News investigators found hundreds of thousands of documents on these copiers. They found police and medical records, social security numbers, birth certificates, income tax, financial records and other secret information assumed by the general public, and even professional corporations, to be secure and private. 

Sharp's 2008 survey said that 60% of Americans don't know, or had forgotten, that copiers store images on hard drives. Only one brand, Sharp, has a photocopier with an automatic deluxe feature that scrubs hard drives clean.  The  CBS  News  investigation video says only one business in America, in San Diego, scrubs hard drives. Small home copiers should be all right, says an expert.

There should be a law banning the sale of photocopiers with any content whatsoever on their hard drives, but it's not going to happen anytime soon. What do you think?

Have you unwittingly copied information on photocopiers you wanted kept private anytime since 2002?


  1. It was really annoying that time and I still remember those days. I had to face huge harassment for that reason though I had no any fault. Btw, Its nice that everything is fine now and copiers got really pretty smart nowadays and made our works easier.

    Rifat@ officia.com