Copier crimes cause worry for office workers

Tucson, AZ (KOLD) - Detailed plans for a building near ground zero, 300 pages of individual medical records, drug prescriptions and blood test results, to a cancer diagnosis were all items found stored inside a copy machine.

Just a few of the thousands of private records were found while investigating the risk of identity theft from copy machines.

"For the common user, it's probably unknown that there is a security risk," Trent Duran said.

Trent Duran with A.B. Dick Products in Tucson says they mainly lease their copiers to small local businesses.

That risk is to the companies who use digital copiers with really good memories.

"There's medical firms, there's real estate companies, there's accounting firms," Duran said.  Since those firms deal with confidential information, Duran says their company makes sure it doesn't end up in the wrong hands.

"We bring the equipment and then we will either dispose of the hard drive or put in a new hard drive and use it as a rental machine," Duran said.

But he says that is not a common practice with all copier companies.

"A lot of times that equipment goes straight back to the leasing company who just wholesales them out to wholesalers that buy used equipment by the mass loads," Duran said.  "So your information could go anywhere basically."

Here is a good example. Duran says they just got this copier off a truck from Milwaukee. He has no idea what business used it or what we might find on the hard drive.

We took the drives to Computer Renaissance to see what they're recovery experts could pull off of them.

"It doesn't matter if it's been deleted, formatted or whatever, I can still get data off of a drive if it hasn't been wiped," computer expert Tim Cannon said.

While Cannon checks those drives for old documents, we're checking in with other investigations across the country that uncovered shocking results.

"This machine came from the city of Buffalo, New York, Police sex crimes division," John Juntunen said.

Juntunen with Digital Copier Security, went to a copier warehouse to see what he could find.

Not knowing what he might find, Juntunen bought four machines based on price and the number of pages printed.

Once the copiers were unloaded, he pulled the hard drives and using a forensic software program, available free on the internet, and ran a scan. He was able to download tens of thousands of documents.

One machine spit out 95 pages of pay stubs, names, addresses, social security numbers and $40,000 in copied checks.

The copier from the Buffalo Police Department had a list of wanted sex offenders and a rundown of targets in a major drug raid.

"Private data's private data," Tim Cannon said.  "You don't want to have it exposed to anyone."

"On these drives, I didn't find anything at all. It was completely blank," Cannon said of the drives given to us from A.B. Dick Products in Tucson.

Cannon says that's good news because it means the company previously using this copier possibly took extra security steps or had the drives wiped clean.

Steps Cannon says, you should make sure your company is also taking.

"For your own protection, for your customer's protection, for your company's protection, you need to know exactly what's happening with that data and if it's possible for someone else to access it, you want to know that," Cannon said.

©2010 KOLD. All rights reserved.