Protect Confidential Information Hiding in Your Printer

Last Updated May 24, 2010 8:57 AM EDT

Everyone knows that your PC is a treasure trove of personal and confidential information, so it's common sense to wipe the drive clean before you sell, donate, or recycle it. But often overlooked is the printer or copier in your office. Did you know that most of the business copiers and some multi-function devices sold since 2002 have their own hard drives? Those drives keep copies of all your stuff.

CBS News broke this story last week. Check out this video report:

In the video clip above, a CBS reporter goes to a warehouse packed with used copiers and buys one for about $300. It comes complete with tens of thousands of confidential and personal documents on the hard drive, which were then downloaded and inspected-- an identity thief's dream come true. One copier, from a hospital, was loaded with personal medical records in violation of federal HIPPA privacy laws.

Think about the kind of things you've printed or copied. Your printer's hard drive probably has social security numbers, addresses, birth certificates, bank and tax records, confidential business and medial documents... the list goes on and on.

The takeaway? The genie is out of the bottle, and it's now impossible to claim you didn't know anything about the privacy threat of used copiers and printers. Be absolutely certain that you wipe data from the hard drives before you sell or recycle them.