Photocopiers: The newest ID theft threat

Photocopiers are the newest threat to identity theft, a copier maker said today, because newer models equipped with hard drives record what's been duplicated. At tax time, when Americans photocopy tax returns, confidential information may be easily available to criminals. "Consumers and business owners will photocopy highly confidential tax forms containing Social Security numbers, employer identification numbers and other sensitive information in places outside the home, leaving them vulnerable to digital theft," Ed McLaughlin, president of Sharp Document Solutions Company of America, said in a statement. At issue are the hard drives embedded in most copiers and intelligent printers manufactured in the past five years. Data is stored on the drive before a document is copied or printed; unless security provisions are in place, the data is stored unencrypted and remains there until the drive is full and new data overwrites old.

Sharp, a major copier maker, commissioned a survey that found 55% of Americans plan to photocopy or print out copies of their tax returns and supporting documents this year. And almost half of that number will do so outside the home, using copiers and intelligent printers at their offices or public machines at libraries and copy centers. "Everyone forgets that there's data in there," said Avivah Litan, an analyst at Gartner Inc. "Copiers and other intelligent devices like multifunction printers are very exposed in the enterprise. They're open to attack via modems, and people forget about changing the default passwords." Sharp's survey also indicated that 54% of those polled had no clue that digital photocopiers store an image of what's duplicated and that a majority believed running off returns on copiers or printers is a safe practice. When told of the security threat posed by unsecured hardware, however, two-thirds of the people surveyed said they were less likely to copy their financial information on a public digital photocopier.

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News source: Computer World

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I can pull up the job log on the copier control panel, it spools the jobs to the copier hard drive (at least the ones I work on do). It does this on these for a reason. The hard drives on the ones I work on, are 80 gig SATA. The print server
spools them to the copier to get them off the print server. All of mine can hold up to 12 "jobs". If more than that are sent, they are held on the print server until a position comes available. Cuts the load on the print server that way.
Works pretty good to :)

Just as an FYI, some of the later model fax machines I've been seeing, instead of an EXPENSIVE memory upgrade,
you can pop in cheap SD cards.
In some of our copiers, to get the "enhanced" scanning you have to have the full boat memory upgrades. 256 meg.
I think the next versions will start using more and more cheaper options like flash memory cards, SD, CF etc.
Also, our latest boxes have the ability (with proper security) to plug a thumb drive into the front of the box, and scan a document directly to a thumb drive, or to print directly from a thumb drive. They are making them more user friendly,
but like I noted in my previous post, you can leave them wide open or lock them down.
How many of you know several open wi-fi boxes in your neighborhood? Same deal.

this sounds like a serious problem

i never knew they had hard drives in a fricking photocopier... the thing i dont get is WHY they would have a hard drive in a thing like this in the first place?.. wtf!

how easy is it to access this stuff? i hope someone has to physically be there to access this stuff.... cause if it can be accessed remotely (like from internet) it would SUCK.

They have a hard drive for a reason. They are "multifunctional devices" now. Not only can you copy, you can print,
scan, email, fax, and store when connected to a network. I have over 750 of these in a major hospital and they are
all HIPPA compliant. Their network IT department has them locked down. With data overwrite, using level 3 they
"meet" government rules regarding data hard drives. Even if someone were to steal the hard drive, which would cause
the machine to lock up, I seriously doubt, with an encryption board, & data overwrite, you could obtain any useful
The reason for the hard drive, is because in a traditional copier, the "light" you see scanning back and forth has to
keep scanning for each copy. On a digital device, it scans it once, then prints from memory, or from the hard drive.
This cuts down the wear and tear of the scanning system. Also, since it is a multifunctional device, lets say you have
this machine tricked out with all the options, scan print, copy, fax, document storage & networked.
Now, someone comes up to make, lets say 50 sets of a 10 page document, stapled, 3 hole punched, duplexed.
In the middle of the copy job, a fax comes in, where's the information stored while the copy job is going on. Now, add to it, someone across the room sends a print job? The information is stored, in a FIFO manner on the hard drive, and spooled out as the print engine becomes available. Also, once you scan a document, you can, by the operational control panel, tweak the output by enhancing the sharpness, rotating it, editing out areas, changing it from a black on white document to a white on black document (negative, positive). As for document storage, here is one I get with a lot of my customers that say "cool!". As with a lot of offices that have patient handouts, forms etc...a lot of them keep the "master" form in a 3 ring binder. When they run out, they get the master and make a bunch of copies. What happens if they lose the master, or someone uses it? With document storage, they can keep the master copy on the copier, and anyone with a valid code to operate the machine, can retrieve and make copies. As with ANY networked device, proper security is a key element. If you have sloppy security, things get compromised.
When I started to see blogs talking about your personal information being stolen from a copier hard drive, the rest of
the techs in the company I work for started laughing. Heck, day in day out we see more security breaches in the
courts system, police agencies, law office by people walking away from their computers without locking the screen,
or logging off. LOL, I even see post it notes on computer screens with passwords.
One small hospital in another city, has these medicine cabinet thingys with a computer monitor. You can't get into it without a password. I was training a guy one time and was working on a machine. A nurse came in and the other
tech watched her type in her user name and password, get the drugs she needed, locked it and left. He turned to
me and said "she just let me see her user/ want it" LOL......
Sloppy security will undo all the hard work an IT guy can do. The photocopier hard drive should be the LEAST
of your worries.

Basically any digital copier/MFP needs a HDD to store the job while it scans the document. since digital machines actually use a regular scanner to scan the document. Then a Laser pritner to print it.

In old analog type copier(wich can't do color at any rate)The Scanner light is bounced off the paper, through mirrors on the carriage, and all the way back to the light sensitive pritnign drum, wich picks up the toner.

since you can't really do this page by page scanning with digital copiers, and because MFP units also have other functions like Fax and scan to email or folder, you need to be able to store the entire document before you can use it. so it's a HDD, or a ridiculous amount of memory, and they need a ridiculous amount of memory anyway even with the HDD so

btw to naap, you where doing pretty well on your summary of the fax being stored on the HDD while the print job finished, untill you said the next print jobs gets stored. Unless it is a stored print job or a secure job, it won't be sent to the printer untill it's available again, it'll just be spooled on the print server. Even if it is a stored job I don't think it'll be sent to the pritner untill it's ready.

Working as a Photocopier Technician,

All of our Machines don't do this as Default, If you wish, sure it could be turned on, but with latest encryption and other security features, secure it and you wont have a problem.

Or if your really concerned, look for an older looking analog machine, that wont record things :>

Working support, I know that most technicians that service the thigns don't actually know how they work outside hitting the copy button. Not saying you aren't though, just how the majority of CE's are.

you are both right and wrong though. MFP pritners(at leats HP) needs to HDD to do copy, fax or scan(to mail or folder) jobs. the image is allways stored on the disk, and outside of firmware storage, it's the only thign the HDD is used for by default. The job is only stored untill it's pritned or sent though, when it's deleted, you can't change this really. Of course if you where able to remove a HDD form the pritner and connecte it to a computer you could read the deleted data realtively easily. The drives are usually partitioned down in size so documents are freqently overwrittent hough. And outside of the latest SATA disk they don't use conventional IDE cables and connectors. someone who really wants the info could probably work around this though.

The only jobs that are actually stored on the pritner and not removed after use is Stored jobs and secure jobs. Stored jobs just sends it to the pritner and you use the menu to print it when you are there. Secure job requires passwords at the very least, and these do get deleted after, unlike regular stored jobs I don't think you have the option to keep these stored in the printer after it's printed.

On HP printers/MFP's at least, none of the stored job types are accesible through the EWS.

Hard drives have been in Photo Copiers for over 8 Years, most brands such as Sharp, have facilities that wipe the hard drive after each print/copy is done.

In order to steal the imformation, the hard drive has to be removed from the copier so I don't really think this is much of a security risk at all - unless companies just let anyone come in and take their copier appart.

There is no way to re-print data from the copier unless the doccument has been set to be stored on the copier and then this is generally done by setting a mail box and password - this does not apply to photo copying.

Must be a slow news day.

That's not true. You can easily obtain information on these printers if they're not set up properly (which, I hate to say it, a lot of them aren't). We did an audit on how many of these we could access and how far back we could obtain information, and you would be shocked what we found. For printers that aren't configured, it's as easy as going to the MFP's built-in website and looking at documents stored on the printers drive.

Makes sense. But I have never thought about the hard drives in the copiers of corporate/government/financial instituations before. I'll bet many other people never consider this a data security risk when they sell their old copiers (or finish the lease on leased units).

You would be surprised how arrogant people are when it comes to security issues like this. I find when people aren't technical, they don't see the issues for what they are and would rather just save money first and foremost rather than pay a little extra and create a solid security plan for specific devices.