Security Tip: Photocopier Hard Disk Caches

PhotocopierYesterday I dropped by an office supply store to pick up a few things and to use their copier. (I needed to copy some pages out of a bound book which is easier to do on a professional copier than my all-in-one.) Imagine my surprise when I lifted the cover to find that the previous customer had left his driver’s license on the glass. Of course, I handed it to the clerk behind the counter to put in the lost and found, but as I did so it reminded me of a security tip to share.

It turns out that this customer unwittingly left his driver license behind in two different ways, the second being that an image of it remains on the hard disk cache inside the copier. All modern professional copiers are actually all-in-one printers on steroids. They consist of a scanner and a printer with an intervening computer-plus-hard disk. All print jobs are actually scanned to the hard disk and then printed from there. So, long after the customer has left the store, anyone with the right knowledge and access can recall any prior print job that still remains in the disk cache and print a second copy.

So, the next time you use a public copier for anything sensitive such as tax returns or medical files (both of which are fodder for identity thieves), you might think twice. At the very least, ask if the copier is set up to encrypt the data in the disk cache. Better yet, use your own scanner-computer-printer, all-in-one, or fax machine, or that of a relative or friend. Or, for those of you with access to a copier at work, the system administrator might be able to show you a way to definitively delete a job from the cache when you are done.


  1. there are clerks at the copy shop near you that might know what encryption is let alone whether the disk in the copier you’re using is set up to encrypt the data from the scan? WOW… you must live in techie heaven…

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