Canon warns of digital printer security issue

The problem, he says, stems from the fact that all data scanned, processed, printed or similarly manipulated on a high-end printer  system is spooled and stored on the machine's hard disk.

On a high-end digital printer , the scanned images are stored in an unencryted format - and when the unit is disposed of by its first owner, anyone in the know can extract this data and generate thousands of images that have been processed and printed on the unit.

"People don't realise that most office [high-end] printers are actually a server. I always ask my audiences at conferences whether they know this and a good 40 per cent say they don't", said Taylor.

The security problem is made worse by the fact that most high-end printers are usually commissioned by facilities managment teams in most major companies, rather than the IT department, he says. "It's a bit like the old phone systems of the 1970s. FM teams installed them back then, but now we have VOIP, there's a security issue that needs to be addressed. It's the same with high-end printers", he explained.

The solution - which Canon has been addressing for some time - is to install an encrypted hard drive at a cost of £120 extra and upwards on a typical high-end printer.

In addition, at the end of the digital printer's initial working life, Taylor says that company IT managers need to dispose of the server drive by shredding the data on the disk, rather than simply selling the unit on to a third party, including all the data on the drive.

"This is a potentially major security issue that companies using high-end printer technology should be aware of. Just as computer hard drives need erasing at the end of their working life [in an organisation] so the printer hard drive also needs wiping", he said.

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