Tuesday, November 9, 2010, AM | 3 Comments
Photo-Copiers in public places installed since 2002 can potentially steal your identity. Be aware that these newer machines have hard drives inside. When you make a copy of your document, you get the hard copy that obviously you can see and touch. You get your original and your copy, put them an envelope and walk out the place. Most consumers are unaware of the fact that one digital copy in memory is transferred to the hard disk and is saved. And it stays there unless it is explicitly deleted from the hard disk so that no trace of your copy is left over in that machine.
Physical documents walk outside, Digital ones stay inside
Every time you make a copy, print, scan, e-mail or send a fax from that machine, it makes and store images of the document to the hard drive. The document that you just “processed” so innocently may have written on it your Social Security number, bank account information or medical files. When you walk out, only your physical documents walk out with you. All your digital personal information remains stored inside the machine that you left inside without thinking someone can potentially steal your entire personality.
You leave the copy center thinking what a cheap bargain. For 5 cents or perhaps less, you made a copy. The digital life is so comfortable and is getting cheaper but more powerful in every sense of the word. The copy stored on that hard disk is a magnet for thieves and scums. Eventually, the copy machine becomes obsolete and is replaced by a newer one. What happens to the old one? Who knows? To a warehouse, maybe?
One specific case…
The machine in the wrong hands (What wrong hands? In the U.S.? Are you kidding me?) can mess up if not screw up entirely your financial life. The potential for stealing is clearly there.
Earlier this year, CBS News team went to a New Jersey warehouse and bought four copiers that had been leased and returned. One of the machines had come from Affinity Health Plan office. It had medical records of nine individuals stored on its hard disk. The machine also contained police records and pay stubs with Social Security numbers on them.
Since 2007 Copiers have built-in erasing and encrypting technology
The Federal Trade Commission announced that it was reaching out to copier manufactures, resellers, and retail copy and office supply stores to ensure that they are aware of the privacy risks. Why can’t the FTC just tell them to stop installing hard disks inside the machines? Why and for what or better yet for whom is the information stored on hard disk?
Most of the office copy machines – about 90% – in the U.S. are leased. What happens when these leases are over? Most of the machines are either exported or resold without any one bothering to check the stored data, except the crooks, scums and the schmucks. They “know” everything about you. Perhaps in the name of the Privacy Act, your leftover information can be potentially compromised.
Is the hard disk in copier installed by the order of Homeland Security?
On the surface of it, I don’t see any need for installing a hard drive inside the photo-copier. However, under the present circumstances, it is not a far-fetched idea the hard disk is installed by the order of Homeland Security. In that case, FTC or any other department can do nothing about it.
In any case, you can do the following to protect your identity:
- When you copy sensitive documents, try to use a home printer that has a copy function. Most home printers do not have hard drive in them. If you don’t already have one, buy the least expensive to avoid using copier at public places. It’s better to spend some money inside than compromise your identity outside.
- If you must use a public copier, ask the establishment how it protects users’ information. It can erase it right away.
- Owned copiers are less likely to be resold and reach scammers as compared to leased ones.
In a Nutshell
FTC ought to tell the manufacturers to stop installing hard drives in the machines. Why should the digital information remain inside when you walk out with the physical one? Who is using it? And for what purpose? Is the information being used by the law-enforcement officers? The old one might be exported, anything – you name it – can happen with that information outside the country. Or better yet, inside the country. That’s where all the thieves and the scums are located.
That ought to be a good movie plot for the likes of James Bond, something like “an old copier was stolen by SPECTRA from a warehouse with sensitive information stored on its hard drive and James Bond is out in the Universe to get it back.”Facebook.com/doable.finance