Friday, August 13, 2010

Beware of the Common Copier

Copiers don't just copy anymore—they scan, fax, and send email. And they could also end up inadvertently leading you to violate privacy rules. Nearly every copier built since 2002 has a hard drive. Everything that is copied, scanned, or emailed by the machine is stored on the hard drive. And unless you have the hard drive erased at the end of the copier lease term, private information from the hard drive could be accessible to the copier company or another organization that leases or buys the copier after you use it. The information can be accessed using software that is available for free on the Internet.

Organizations that provide social services frequently copy or scan papers that include social security numbers, wage information, or medical records. You can unintentionally violate Federal and State privacy rules if this information is accessed. The identities of your clients could be stolen.

You need to make sure that your policies for protecting that information extends to your copier too. Most copier manufacturers offer security or encryption packages for their products. Sharp and Xerox both have products that automatically erase an image from the hard drive as soon as it is printed. The cost of the product is $500—a very low cost to prevent potentially significant damages. You can also arrange to have the hard drive completely erased before the machine is removed at the end of the lease period.