Digital copy machines pose a serious data security risk as most companies fail to delete thousands of copies stored on the copier's hard drive before returning hired machines or selling them.
According to a CBS report, nearly every copier built since 2002 contains a hard drive storing an image of every document copied, scanned, or emailed by the machine. Investigations found that this data usually still stored on the hard drive when the machines were resold, creating a potential digital data time bomb.
A video by CBS covers the purchase of four secondhand copiers from a warehouse in New Jersey for US$300 each. The information retrieved from the hard drives of these machines included information from the sex crimes division of a police unit in the City of Buffalo,
According CBS, John Juntunen, who has developed free software called InfoSweep to scrub the information on these hard drives, has been trying to warn people about the potential risk without success.
It took Juntunen less than 12 hours to remove the hard drives from all four copiers and retrieve tens of thousands of documents using a forensic software program available for free on the Internet.
CBS reports: "The results were stunning: from the sex crimes unit there were detailed domestic violence complaints and a list of wanted sex offenders. On a second machine from the Buffalo Police Narcotics Unit we found a list of targets in a major drug raid."
The third machine, from a New York construction company, spit out design plans for a building near Ground Zero in Manhattan; 95 pages of pay stubs with names, addresses and social security numbers; and $40,000 in copied checks.
But it wasn't until hitting "print" on the fourth machine - from Affinity Health Plan, a New York insurance company, that we obtained the most disturbing documents: 300 pages of individual medical records. They included everything from drug prescriptions, to blood test results, to a cancer diagnosis. A potentially serious breach of federal privacy law.
In 2008 a survey on copier security found that 60 percent of Americans didn't know that copiers store images on a hard drive and therefore pose a serious data security risk.