What’s on your hard drive?

June 23, 2010

In a typical office, multifunctional printing devices aren’t given much thought when they’re not being used. Workers typically make their copies, pick up their faxes or print their documents without much consideration about what’s going on inside.

Such cavalier behaviour could put your organization at risk. As multifunctionals have become more intelligent, their computing power has increased. That means the average device in an office has a substantial hard drive. If you’ve used it to produce confidential information, chances are it’s stored somewhere in the unit. And if it happens to fall into the wrong hands, it could expose your organization to legal liabilities.

If your printer is nearing the end of its life, you can simply destroy its hard drive using a shredder. There are many available for purchase or rental, or you may be able to use someone else’s—in British Columbia, for example, the provincial government has invited the public to make use of its industrial-grade shredder to destroy computer hard drives and other data devices.

If you’re using the hard drives on a regular basis, however, keeping data protected is a bit more difficult. To solve this problem, a number of vendors have come up with solutions designed to mitigate the risk.

Big volumes, big risk

“There are definitely a lot of documents flowing through these machines. In certain environments, the documents might be highly secure,” explains Matthew Weiner, marketing manager, print solutions at Samsung. “These machines have hard drives; they store information. The question we as an industry face is how to get rid of that information or limit access to only those who have the right to see it.

“The industry as a whole is coming up with creative ways to either delete the item off the hard drive or to determine, through security or authentication, who has right to print what,” he adds.

Users of modern Samsung devices have the option to use SecuThru, a program that allows users to customize the security settings on their devices to suit their risk mitigation requirements. Organizations can configure a full wipe-out of the hard drive at regular intervals—monthly, weekly or daily. Or certain employees dealing with confidential information can be given special privileges to delete items from the hard drive as soon as the printout occurs.

“These typical copier-based machines go on a three- to five-year lifecycle. All these machines are copying many, many documents. Without any security around this, someone can basically take that information very easily and download it. They might get access to medical information, social insurance information or salaries.”