Businesses warned of photocopier data risk

Businesses risk exposing confidential information through unsecured office photocopiers.

Businesses risk exposing confidential information through unsecured office photocopiers.

Modern copiers contain hard disc drives, which can retain electronic copies of tens of thousands of photocopied documents, but few companies are taking steps to protect their data from hackers or industrial spies.

Businesses are at risk when they dispose of old photocopiers, which can retain records of photocopied documents, said Trevor Joseph, solutions manager at photocopier manufacturer Sharp.

"I have seen cases where machines have come in for reconditioning and gone out to a new customer without the hard disc being cleared. The new customer has been able to print out documents," he said.

Some copiers allow administrators to view documents that have been copied via an internet link, Joseph said.

Computer hackers could potentially use this facility to access archives of photocopied documents by "tunnelling" into machines through company networks.

Companies are also at risk from unscrupulous engineers, who could discreetly replace hard disc drives in copiers and retrieve documents from the old discs.

"On most machines you can change the hard drive in five minutes. Most of them are standard laptop hard drives," said Joseph.

Companies should make sure they have service level agreements with their photocopier suppliers that require old hard discs to be handed over when machines are reconditioned or repaired, said Joseph.

Most military establishments in the UK insist on having old-fashioned analogue photocopiers, which do not leave a document trail.

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