Digital photocopiers pose security threat for identity theft

The digital photocopier being used in your home or office may offer an identity thief or fraudster gateway direct to your personal or sensitive data. Though most users are unaware, nearly all digital copiers sold since 2002 contain a digital hard drive — similar to the one in a personal computer or laptop — that stores images of every document copied, scanned or emailed by the photocopier.

Please note that digital photocopiers differ from standard digital scanners in that digital photocopiers are usually known as a MFP (multi function product / peripheral / printer) or else as a MFD (multi function device) and are able to function as stand alone without having to be hooked up to a computer. [The main difference is that a digital scanner requires an explicit PC connection to function].

Most offices and home users are unaware of the potential risks involved with digital photocopiers. Security surveys regarding photocopiers by a University found that more than 60 percent of users were unaware that copiers store images of all documents on a hard drive which could be accessed later by technicians or outsiders.

Manufactures of the digital photocopiers do caution consumers about the default settings that result in all images being saved to the internal hard drive for later review. However, these warnings have mainly fallen on deaf ears with offices not treating the data with the proper security protocols. The digital photocopiers do also have encryption packages to protect the data but few users know to, or can be bothered to, engage the system so that the images are protected by a password. Some machines do have a product that will automatically erase images from the hard drive but these come as costly extras.

Therefore the average business or home user remains oblivious to the dangers posed by these digital copiers. As digital copiers are often used in offices to copy items such as passports, credit cards, IC cards, driving licences, utility bills etc; this data on a hard drive can be a goldmine for identity thieves and fraudsters. Investigations organised by a leading university in New York found that it’s easy to buy an old digital copier loaded with images of data such as social security numbers, driving licences, bank records and income tax forms. Two digital copiers were found to have been used in government offices including a Police Department.

The team simply pulled out the hard drives from the digital copiers and used free forensic software tools on the Internet so that tens of thousands of documents were recovered within one day. A leading expert on digital security commented that any company needs to conduct a review of all IT equipment storing data as part of the business and take steps to ensure the data is encrypted or else destroyed via standard forensic IT steps to ensure security.

Do you need to know more about our services and how Regents can assist you with preventing information loss and securing your computer network? Simply go to our Computer Forensics page for our phone numbers or else send an email to contactus@regentsriskadvisory.com with your contact details and we will respond at once.