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Scary Truth About Photocopiers and Your Sensitive Data

Photocopiers were introduced by Xerox in the year 1949 and since then, they have evolved to a great extent to today’s Photocopiers. From black and white output to colored ones. And for some time now, they have become digital and more sophisticated instruments. But did you know that copiers today don’t only copy documents; they in fact memorize them while printing. They come with an inbuilt Hard Disk drive which stores the image of all the documents processed inside the copier. Smart huh? We think it’s something that should make you scared! Wondering why? Well, read on…

Scary Truth About Photo Copiers Xerox Machines Scanners and Your Sensitive Data

Copy Machines; a Security Risk?

The material stored in the photo copier while printing is not encrypted (non-encrypted raw data that can be viewed directly by anyone with access to the copier). So if a burglar or for that matter, a corporate spy gets hold of the copier’s hard disk, they can access a treasure trove of personal information about employees and clients. They can even access company financial information, trade secrets, pay checks… anything that the copier had stored while printing!

The possibility of a burglar or a corporate spy trying to steal information sounds crazy to you? Then picture this – A recent survey showed that over 25,000 copiers are sold by corporate and software companies every year to be replaced with new and latest generation copiers. What would happen if the pre-owned hardware vendor whom your company sold the old copiers, decide to take a look inside the hidden data on the copier’s hard drive?

Digital Photocopiers Loaded With Secrets


How much Hidden Data can be Secretly Stored in a Copier’s Memory?

Now the question is how many copies a copier is able to store? With image compression, you can fit a decent scan of a page in half a megabyte. With a 100 gigabyte hard disk, the copier can store at least 200,000 pages. That is hell of a data!

A report has shown how in a matter of thirty minutes, hard disk drives were removed from a number of used photo copiers which were purchased for about $300 each.  The drives were then connected to a personal computer running data retrieving software that was available free on the internet. In a matter of 12 hours the software had extracted personal information, social security numbers, medical records and company checks. One of the photocopiers came from a police department and contained confidential criminal records.

A spokesperson from the Xerox Corporation told that their company has been aware of this problem and developed a solution to wipe documents from mass storage devices using a feature called “Image Overwrite.“   This is a feature that electronically shreds information stored on internal hard disk drives. The company website has information posted on this features that has been installed in Xerox equipment since 2008. But if you or your company is using a photocopier that was manufactured before 2008?

How to make sure your photocopier is NOT storing any Hidden Data?

Does you copier print documents? If your answer is yes, you should better ask your system administrator to get rid of the hard disk at the first place. It stores the printed documents too. The same thing happens when you scan a document. That means, every time you process any document in your copier, it’ll store a copy of it which can be accessed later.

However, the process of storing of documents varies from one manufacturer to the other. Some copiers flush the data after each 24 hours. Some replace the oldest data with the newest one (FIFO mechanism). And some need to be flushed manually (they are the ones that you should be worried about).

Do you use the office copier for your personal use? If yes, this is time you should stop using the office copier for personal use unless you are very sure about the make of your photocopier and its document storing principles.

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Author: (Articles written: 130)

Jojo is a Software Engineer in his early twenties who has a keen interest in technology, blogging, gadgets, gaming, movies, smart phones and people-watching. Jojo has an intense interest in Photography and loves delicious foods (mostly chicken) but struggles to appreciate street dogs and bad weather. Jojo is the Co-owner of TechChunks.com and writes here frequently. !

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15 Responses to " Scary Truth About Photocopiers and Your Sensitive Data "

  1. This is very scary. I have never though of this but it is a reality. The information that can be stored by photocopiers is a lot. I hope companies are aware of this because it can lead to personal data getting into the wrong hands.

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