ID Theft Alert: Digital Copiers
By Consumers Union on Tuesday, April 20th, 2010
Every digital copier contains a hard drive similar to the one on your computer that holds every image that is scanned or copied on the machine. Many companies either don’t know about this feature or are not taking the proper precautions to erase potentially sensitive data before sending the copier out to be resold.
CBS bought four used digital copiers for about $300 a piece. What they found was surprising.
From the CBS story:
We didn’t even have to wait for the first one to warm up. One of the copiers had documents still on the copier glass, from the Buffalo, N.Y., Police Sex Crimes Division.
It took Juntunen just 30 minutes to pull the hard drives out of the copiers. Then, using a forensic software program available for free on the Internet, he ran a scan – downloading tens of thousands of documents in less than 12 hours.
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.
From Gail Hillebrand, head of the DefendYourDollars.org team:
“This is one more example of the ways in which business, government, and other entities that take your personal information must have a higher obligation to safeguard it. Consumers can’t protect themselves from identity theft when business and government collect more sensitive personal information than they need, hold on to it too long, and are careless with that sensitive information.”
Also, if you are considering a security freeze for your ID here are some things to consider.