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FTC Reportedly Investigating Copier Data Security Concern

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May 18, 2010

FTC Reportedly Investigating Copier Data Security Concern

By Patrick Barnard, Group Managing Editor, TMCnet

The US Federal Trade Commission is reportedly investigating whether copy machine makers are properly warning their distributors, resellers and customers about the risks of sensitive data being accessed from the machines' hard drives.

Most copiers made since 2002 come equipped with a hard drive. Every time someone copies a sensitive document on one of these machines, such as a tax return or bank statement, the image can remain on the hard drive for an indefinite period of time. Apparently hackers are aware of this and may have already targeted these networked devices, scanning them for images of documents that reveal personal information (social security numbers, credit card numbers, etc.), for the purpose of committing credit card fraud or identity theft.

According to a report on IDG News Service, FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz (News - Alert) sent a letter to U.S. Representative Ed Markey saying the agency has been working to alert copy machine manufacturers and sellers of the privacy risks. The FTC (News - Alert), according to the report, is trying to 'determine whether they are warning their customers about these risks ... and whether manufacturers and resellers are providing options for secure copying.'

According to the article, a recent report "found sensitive health and law-enforcement investigation information on copy machines ready to be resold."

'I am concerned that these hard drives represent a treasure trove for thieves, leaving unwitting consumers vulnerable to identity theft as their Social Security numbers, birth certificates, medical records, bank records and other personal information are exposed to individuals who could easily extract the data from the digital copiers' hard drive and use it for criminal purposes,' Markey wrote in an April 29 letter to the FTC.

Leibowitz said the FTC is working with copy machine makers and sellers to provide 'appropriate educational materials' to their clients.

For more, check out this recent column in the St. Petersburg Times, Fla.; as well as this follow-up report about how the Pinellas County libraries in Florida is proactively addressing this security concern.

Patrick Barnard is a senior Web editor for TMCnet, covering call and contact center technologies. He also compiles and regularly contributes to TMCnet e-Newsletters in the areas of robotics, IT, M2M, OCS and customer interaction solutions. To read more of Patrick's articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Patrick Barnard

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