printer hard drives security

When it comes to upgrading your office tech or freeing up space, it can be tempting to simply list your old copiers and printers on Craigslist. This might be an easy way to get rid of your aging printers and scanners. But it can actually put your sensitive information at risk.

Just like the hard drives in laptops or desktop computers, the hard drives in printers and scanners store copies of the documents you print or copy. If you don’t take care of this information properly, someone could steal it from these old devices.

Printer and Copier Hard Drives: What You Need to Know

printer securityPractically all modern copiers and printers have hard drives in them, just like a computer. These hard drives are important because they allow printers and copiers to store emails, settings, and the device’s operating system.

When used correctly, these features allow you to easily and efficiently operate your printer or copier.

Unfortunately, these hard drives also store any document that the machine scanned or printed.

Copies of every fax, form, document, image, or anything else that was scanned or printed is stored on the copier’s hard drive. Combine that with the fact that most home and professional printers and copiers have little to no security, and you have a situation that puts your sensitive documents at risk of being seen by bad actors.

Selling Old Printers: When It Goes Wrong

In 2010, a CBS investigation revealed that for just $300, an investigator was able to obtain a used printer containing 95 pages of pay stubs with names, addresses, and social security numbers, and $40,000 in copied checks.

identity theftIn the same investigation, another printer was discovered to have belonged to a medical practice.

On it, investigators discovered 300 pages of private medical records, a breach that would subject the printer’s original owner to heavy fines and penalties under HIPAA.

In either case, the data stored on the printers’ hard drives gave investigators more than information personal identifying information (PII) to effectively steal the identities of possibly dozens of people.

Whether you’re getting rid of a personal printer or one used at the office, it’s crucial that you take the proper steps to secure your information in order to prevent the kinds of leaks that CBS uncovered.

How You Can Protect Yourself

One of the most common suggestions for destroying data on an old hard drive is to simply reformat or completely erase the drive. This may be fine if the printer or scanner was never used for private or sensitive information. But even then, digital forensics software exists that allows determined thieves to recover most deleted information.

If you’re dealing with information that contains protected health information (PHI) or PII, the only way to be sure your data is destroyed is to physically destroy the hard drive.

The easiest way to do this is by using a hard drive shredding service. Most mobile shred trucks are capable of completely destroying your old hard drives. They also have added security because you can watch the shredding occur.

Methods of Hard Drive Shredding

There are two main methods of shredding a hard drive: shearing and crushing.

hard drive shreddingWhen hard drives are crushed, they are punched with large piston that puts a large hole straight through the disks in the hard drive. Although the platters may still be in large pieces, the surface is so deformed that it is impossible to access any data.

The other method, shearing, involves cutting a hard drive into small strips or pieces. This process is a lot like how paper shredding works in your average printer. Since there is no way to reassemble the pieces, your data is safe.

Need to Get Rid of Your Hard Drives Securely?

Shred Nations partners with secure hard drive destruction services across the United States. Let us help you find the right service for your hard drive shredding project. To get started, fill out our form or give us a call at (800) 747-3365 for a free, no-obligation quote from providers in your area.