Thursday, March 15, 2007

A quick word of caution regarding photocopiers...

Just in time for tax season, Sharp is preparing to notify the public that use of their digital copiers may pose ID theft risks. That's right - simply making copies can result in someone copying YOU. If you're copying documents that contain personal and private information, you could be at risk.

This concern stems from the technology used within almost all digital copiers. One of the great features of these machines in an office setting is their ability to store document images for future re-prints. However, that storage comes at a price. Those images are stored in an internal hard drive in the copier, unencrypted, often for long periods of time. These machines are also often connected to the network in a retail setting.

Usually retail store networks are protected by a simple firewall - a device that a good hacker can compromise in under 15 minutes. Once inside, if the hacker can gain access to the copier, they can read any of the images stored in the machine. This is particularly concerning since a large percentage of American taxpayers use public copiers to create duplicates of their tax filings.

There is hope. Most copier manufactures, including Sharp, are now including security packages as either standard or optional features with their machines. However, for the machines that have been in the marketplace for at least 12 - 24 months, they are very likely to be susceptible to this type of attack.

So my advice to you is to be careful and if at all possible, use your home scanner and printer to make copies of your tax returns. Or do what I do and file electronically. It's faster and safer.


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