Data Security: Copi-er That!

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If your company keeps sensitive data like Social Security numbers, credit reports, account numbers, health records, or business secrets, you’ve probably instituted safeguards to protect that information, whether it’s stored in computers or on paper. That’s great.  But it’s time to take those safeguards a step further.

Your information security plan should cover the digital copiers your company uses. Why? Because the hard drive in a digital copier stores data about the documents it copies, prints, scans, faxes, or emails. And if you don’t take steps to protect that data, it can be stolen from the hard drive, either by remote access or by extraction once the drive has been removed.

Here are some tips about incorporating safeguards for sensitive data stored on the hard drives of digital copiers:

  • Get your IT staff involved when you’re thinking about getting a copier. Employees who have expertise and responsibility for securing your computers and servers also should be responsible for securing data stored on digital copiers.
  • When you’re buying or leasing a copier, know that most manufacturers offer data security features, either as standard equipment or as optional add-on kits. Typically, these features involve encryption and overwriting.  Encryption scrambles the data on the hard drive so it can be read only by particular software. This ensures that even if the hard drive is removed, the data can’t be retrieved. Overwriting – also known as file wiping or shredding – replaces the existing data with random characters, making it harder for someone to reconstruct a file.
  • Once you choose a copier, take advantage of all its security features. For example, depending on the copier, the overwriting feature may allow you to overwrite after every job run, periodically to clean out the memory, or on a preset schedule. You may be able to set the number of times data is overwritten – generally, the more times the data is overwritten, the safer it is from being retrieved.  In addition, make it an office practice to securely overwrite the entire hard drive at least once a month.
  • When you return or dispose of a copier, find out whether you can have the hard drive removed and destroyed, or overwrite the data on the hard drive. It’s generally advisable for a skilled technician to remove the hard drive to avoid the risk of breaking the machine.

To find out more, read Copier Data Security: A Guide for Businesses.

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