A handful of times in the last few weeks I have been asked about the risk of data left on old copiers or printers. In fact, I was pointed to a CBS news report about this potential problem. From my research, it was this report from earlier this year that seems to be the catalyst for all the concern. This report is well worth reading or watching, and I suggest you do so, but don’t get overly alarmed quite yet. As with many news reports, it can be easy to get caught up in the story. But there are a few factors to consider in determining your risk.
The root of the problem lies in the fact that many digital printer/copiers have hard drives in them. In the case of a copier or printer with a hard drive, that drive can be used to store images of the files that were run through or printed by the machine. Just like a hard drive from a computer, it is possible to retrieve data off the drive even if the data was deleted. it’s not always possible, but it can be done under the right circumstances. So those images that the copier or printer stored could possibly be retrieved later, when the device is sold or returned from lease.
The risk is definitely real. However, the question is who exactly is at risk? The CBS report states that “nearly every” digital copier made since 2002 have hard drives in them. I question that assertion. Based on my research, the more accurate statement would be “nearly every high-end digital copier”. In the case of digital copiers and printers, “high-end” would mean larger, high-output devices that you normally only see in large offices or printing shops. The reality is that most small businesses don’t have “high-end” digital copier/printers. However, the reality also is that high-end technology does trickle down into mainstream technology over time. Printer/copiers that may have been only used by larger businesses several years ago may now be in use by smaller businesses.
So are you or your business at risk? For most small businesses, I’d say likely no, but one can’t be sure until each digital printer/copier is evaluated. The businesses most at risk are those that handle sensitive information, such as medical, insurance, or financial offices. But there are steps that can be taken to ensure that sensitive data is not retrievable from old printer/copiers. In addition, many manufacturers have encryption technology built into their devices that is supposed to make them more secure. So while the risk is real, it is relatively easy to prevent the problem from happening – if you are aware of the problem in the first place.
If you are concerned about protecting the data that is passing through your copier or printer, feel free to contact me. I can help you determine your risk and what steps you may need to take to secure your data.