Nearly every digital copier built since 2002 contains a hard drive – like the one on your personal computer – storing an image of every document copied, scanned, or emailed by the machine. In the process, it’s turned an office staple into a digital time-bomb packed with highly-personal or sensitive data.
If you’re in the identity theft business it seems this would be a pot of gold. “The type of information we see on these machines with the social security numbers, birth certificates, bank records, income tax forms,” John Juntunen said, “that information would be very valuable.”
This past February, CBS News went with Juntunen to a warehouse in New Jersey, one of 25 across the country, to see how hard it would be to buy a used copier loaded with documents. It turns out … it’s pretty easy.
Juntunen picked four machines based on price and the number of pages printed. In less than two hours his selections were packed and loaded onto a truck. The cost? About $300 each.
Until we unpacked and plugged them in, we had no idea where the copiers came from or what we’d find.
We didn’t even have to wait for the first one to warm up. One of the copiers had documents still on the copier glass, from the Buffalo, N.Y., Police Sex Crimes Division.
It took Juntunen just 30 minutes to pull the hard drives out of the copiers. Then, using a forensic software program available for free on the Internet, he ran a scan – downloading tens of thousands of documents in less than 12 hours.
The results were stunning: from the sex crimes unit there were detailed domestic violence complaints and a list of wanted sex offenders. On a second machine from the Buffalo Police Narcotics Unit we found a list of targets in a major drug raid.
The third machine, from a New York construction company, spit out design plans for a building near Ground Zero in Manhattan; 95 pages of pay stubs with names, addresses and social security numbers; and $40,000 in copied checks.
But it wasn’t until hitting “print” on the fourth machine – from Affinity Health Plan, a New York insurance company, that we obtained the most disturbing documents: 300 pages of individual medical records. They included everything from drug prescriptions, to blood test results, to a cancer diagnosis. A potentially serious breach of federal privacy law.
Ever wonder why your copier is hooked up to the internet? I’m pretty sure if your wired in the documents get transferred to a server somewhere. Possible breaches daily and if you happen to sell your printer second hand, that person could possibly harvest your data and use it to their advantage like above. Pretty creepy but so is the new TV set-top-boxes that have cameras and microphones to ‘spy’ on you for mood advertisements. The Orwellian society is here!