What you need to know about digital copier security for your business

Digital copier security considered the hidden IT threat

The majority of copiers produced since 2002 are made with hard drives designed to store sensitive data and personal records. A digital copier that has the capability to print, scan, fax, and copy, as well as email, has a hard drive to store all documents it encounters. Depending on where and how a digital copier was used, confidential documents and contracts could be easily leaked when the machine is handed over to the next customer.

Here are a few examples of common copier uses that could pose a threat:

  • Private medical records copied in a doctor's office, protected by law.
  • Loan contracts faxed or copied in a bank.
  • Student files, records, or report cards printed in a school or university.
  • Donor payment information scanned for filing by a nonprofit organization.

What's worse, protecting your copier data may not just be a domestic issue. It could be an international threat. If a used or leased photocopier is sold to a dealer, it may be resold within the US or shipped overseas. The loss of such private information would be almost impossible to trace and could easily get into the wrong hands.

Improve digital copier security: Treat a photocopier like a PC

If you wouldn't resell your computer hard drive without wiping it clean, don't neglect to do the same with your copier. As we've already discussed, even the average office photocopier may be chock-full of sensitive data: financial statements, employee Social Security numbers, business account numbers, and more.

The Bureau of Consumer Protection urges higher levels of data security every time a business encounters a photocopier:

  • Acquiring a copier. Leased, refurbished, and used copiers should be screened by a company's IT staff; a copier hard drive must be secured before it enters a business.
  • Buying or leasing a copier. Inquire in detail about copier security from a vendor; most copier retailers offer equipment data security features, including encryption and overwriting.
  • Using a copier in-office. Copier security features should be used at all times with discretion in an office; a secure hard drive overwrite is recommended monthly.
  • Reselling or returning a copier. A manufacturer or dealer can provide more information on securing a copier hard drive before reselling or returning under lease. Some vendors may charge an additional fee to overwrite a hard drive or remove and return it so a business can destroy it.

When you're ready to upgrade your copier, either by reselling or returning it under lease, consult with your vendor or manufacturer for the correct data security protocol. Though it may seem easier to remove the hard drive yourself, the FTC discourages this practice. According to the FTC, improperly removing and destroying a copier hard drive without replacing the necessary firmware could disable the machine altogether.