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Is Your Copier Storing More Secrets Than You Realize?

Since 2002, the majority of copy machines manufactured include a hard drive. It stores images of every document that is copied, scanned, or even emailed through the machine. Personal and extremely confidential data is saved on these machines. Social security numbers, banking records, income tax information, health records etc. are just some examples. This is an identity thief's dream come true. If a copier also serves as a printer, it stores printed pages as well. Your copy machine is much like your computer in the documentation that it saves.

In 2008, a survey was circulated on copier security by Ed McLaughlin, President of Sharp Imaging. Approximately sixty percent of Americans were not aware that copy machines can store images on a hard drive. What is more alarming is the thought of used copy machines that are shipped all over the world with these secrets stored away. However, there are security and encryption packages that can erase the data stored on the hard drive. These are costly though, in the ballpark of five hundred dollars. It does not seem to be a high priority for businesses to get this kind of protection.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, a company's information security agenda should cover the digital copiers that are utilized. Copy machines are often leased, sold, and returned on a national and international basis. It is vital that companies keep track of this and integrate steps in protecting and securing the saved data. When a company purchases or leases a copy machine, it is important to be mindful of the options that are available. Security features may come standard with the device, or they may be purchased as an add-on feature. This is not something to be ignored. The cost of adding on the security features far outweighs the damage that can be caused by a breach in security.

Your copy machine would fail a compliance test if the hard drive did not have a security feature like encryption or overwriting options. The term encryption means all of the data on the copy machine is scrambled. Even if the hard drive is removed, the data then stored cannot be retrieved because of the encryption. Another security measure is known as overwriting, or file wiping. This security overwrites the stored data with random characters.

Depending upon what type of copier, some of the overwriting features can overwrite after each individual job is copied, printed, or emailed. Or the machine can overwrite the documents on a periodic or scheduled basis. Overwriting is not the same as deleting data. Deleting data or reformatting data does not make it permanently disappear. It remains hidden because there are several software programs that can retrieve it. Lease contracts and purchase agreements should clearly list that the company that provides the copier will overwrite or encrypt the hard drive.

The process of storing data on the hard drives can differ from each manufacturer and copy machine. Some copy machines actually can flush the data after each business day is over. Some can replace the oldest data with the most recent. Other machines need to cleared out manually. When a company is finished using a copy machine, make sure the manufacturer or servicing company is contacted in regards to getting the hard drive secured. There are services that remove the hard drive and dispose of it. Other manufacturers or servicing companies may overwrite the hard drive for an additional fee.

The Federal Trade Commission expects companies to maintain procedures to protect confidential information. The size of the company, the type of information that is stored, and security measures are all factors that are considered. Compliance requirements vary to some degree if consumer information is shared. With technology constantly evolving and advancing, and the gadgets we use on a daily basis in the workplace, it is paramount that companies take the appropriate precautions. If a company has not been current on monitoring their copy machines, it needs to become a high priority. An add-on safety feature should be purchased to overwrite or encrypt the hard drive as soon as possible.

These preventative actions will help meet the compliance requirements of the Federal Trade Commission, and can also prevent hardships and possible lawsuits for a company. The last thing a company should be worrying about is if their copy machine has the appropriate security measures in place. The more documents in the machine, the greater the risk can be. There is plenty of high-priority and time sensitive tasks that a company needs to focus on a day to day basis in the workplace. Make sure your copy machine is secure.