Imagine that you are an elderly man or woman stopping at the local pharmacy for your medications, and the pharmacist hands you the printed prescription and your meds. You are good to go for the next month. Now imagine that you are a police officer at the station’s narcotics unit, printing the latest dirt on your targets. You have the information you need to continue with a sting operation. For one more make-believe story, imagine that you just started a new health insurance plan at work and have just received the printed documents of your policy. Your doctor visits are now covered at 80/20 for the year.
There is something important that you should be aware of.
These scenarios and countless others take place every day, everywhere. What you may not be aware of is that everything that is printed on a copier unit like the ones used in the pretend stories above is stored on a hard drive housed within the copier unit itself. Copiers themselves are computers, or at least have a computer in them, that processes print and copy requests. Copiers queue print jobs on the hard drive, therefore these files are there for the taking if someone else gets ahold of the copier unit.
CBS News’ website posted an article and video on this topic. The story, covered by Armen Keteyian, depicted his and John Juntunen’s visit to a New Jersey warehouse to see how easy it would be to purchase used copiers. According to the article, it was very easy. Out of the copiers purchased, they were able to glean various types of documents from them. Police documents from one unit, patient health information from another unit, social security numbers from another were easily obtained. Keteyian writes:
“It took Juntunen just 30 minutes to pull the hard drives out of the copiers. Then, using a forensic software program available for free on the Internet, he ran a scan – downloading tens of thousands of documents in less than 12 hours.”
IT departments need to be aware that copiers are computers too and contain hard drives that store thousands of documents from companies of all types. John Juntunen’s company developed scrubbing software to clean the hard drives of used copier units that are up for resale. A Department of Defense (DOD) wipe can also be done on the hard drives to prevent the recovery of sensitive files. If one or more copier units are being replaced at your office, store, what have you, make sure that your copier vendor or representative has established measures in place to properly wipe, or even destroy, the hard drives from those copier units to keep sensitive company and personal documents out of the wrong hands.
As more devices and gadgets gain the ability to communicate and store data files, this idea of scrubbing goes beyond copiers. Our day-to-day information is finding more hiding places to sneak past us, so technology personnel need to be more vigilant at properly controlling the information contained on systems that are passed on through resale, recycling, and/or donation.