There's a good chance every photocopy you've made in recent months or even years still resides on the photocopier.
An El Dorado County digital security firm says most modern commercial copiers store images on a computer hard drive that poses a serious threat of data mining.
"The image stays on the copier, usually long after the machine has left the office," said John Juntunen, founder of Digital Copier Security, Inc. Juntunen said an average hard drive could store tens of thousands of images before older files are overwritten.
Juntunen's firm charges clients a fee to remove and destroy copier hard drives, usually when the machine is being replaced by a newer model. As an example, the company showed images hundreds of personal tax returns on the hard drive taken from an local accountant's copier. "We can literally scroll through every page of a customer's tax return," said Digital Copier Security Chief Executive Officer Bill Feigles.
Feigles said they've seen medical records from clinics, sensitive financial data from title companies, and even documents from a police department's photocopier. Feigles said most of the copiers removed from service in the United States are sold on the secondhand market overseas. "I think people would be and should be horrified," he said.
Juntunen said copier manufacturers recognize the potential and have begun adding security features as an option, but dealers still minimize the risk of unprotected machines.
Other experts in identity theft protection advise against using office or other public copiers for sensitive documents. They say personal copiers generally use flash memory that is purged each time the equipment is turned off.