Copier Security: Is it a Concern?

If you run an office or small business, you probably already know that you should protect your business from intruders, and have the best in anti-spyware software on your computers. What many business owners forget about is their photocopier machine. Believe it or not, it might not be as safe as you think.

Some copiers, especially digital ones, save information when you print, photocopy, or scan a document. When it is time to upgrade your equipment, and you sell that copier, it might have personal or confidential information saved to its internal hard drive. This is why you need to be sure you know what information is saved — and how to delete it.

Digital Copiers Are Like Computers

According to the Federal Trade Commission, digital copiers are a significant risk because they function similar to computers. If you keep sensitive data like credit reports, account numbers, health records, or confidential business information on documents that are copied or scanned, your copier might have all that information stored.

Digital copiers are great for convenience and incorporate modern technology, but they also have hard disk drives so that they can store jobs for better production. It’s great that you can go back to a previously printed document and re-print it, but that also means the information is stored in your printer. The FTC believes you should include your copiers with your other business security measures.

Business That Should be Aware

While any business using a copier should be aware of what their copier does and how it stores data, there are certain types of businesses that are at a greater risk. Not only that, but these businesses must also abide by certain regulations where they keep confidential, personal, or financial information from the public.

For example, physicians with their own medical practice shouldn’t just dispose of an old digital copier the way other businesses do. You must be sure all stored data is erased, since it might hold medical information from your previous patients. Businesses that should be cognizant of copier security risks include:

  • Medical-related businesses, including hospitals, doctor’s offices, dentists, and the like
  • Nonprofit organizations
  • Schools
  • Financial services

Where the Risk Comes From

There are many ways someone can get information from your printer or copy machine without your consent. Recycling old equipment is only one method of many that someone could use against you in order to steal names, social security numbers, or medical information. Here are some different ways you need to be aware of:

Looking at documents. The old method of simply snooping at documents on your printer or fax machine is still a risk. Make sure you remove documents as soon as you are done with the machine.

Changing the settings. This could be accidental on purpose. It is not uncommon for someone to be using controls on a copy machine and accidentally reroute everything or open a saved copy of a confidential document.

Hacking the network. If you have a digital printer that is wireless, someone can hack into that network and access any saved documents.

Not only should your copier be password-protected and limited to only you changing the settings or retrieving information, but you should also have business insurance, including cyber liability insurance, to protect you if an illegal event occurs.