Printer hard drive
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printer hard drives

Modern copy machines and printers have a similar hard drive to those found in PCs and laptops. These machines automatically store any document that has been printed or copied on the hard drive. This means that copy machines and printers may contain sensitive data on the hard drive which must be destroyed. This is often an overlooked security issue which could result in a data breach.

Usually when several copies of a document are needed, the document is scanned just once and the copies are made from the file that has been saved on the hard disk. The data can be accessed by removing the hard drive from the printer or copy machine and connecting it to a PC or an erasure station. There are no existing standards which state how the data on these devices should be permanently removed however the same measures must be practiced as when erasing computer hard drives.


Existing methods of removing data from printer and copy machine hard drives


  Software overwrite Degauss Physical Destruction
Description Involves using a special application to write patterns of meaningless data onto each of the drive’s sectors. This process works by overwriting the data with a combination of 1´s and 0’s. The level of security depends on the number of times the entire hard drive is written over. It is best to use certified software that provides detailed reporting of the erasure process. Involves using a machine that produces a strong electromagnetic field to destroy the data on the hard drive. Can be accomplished using a variety of methods, including disintegration, incineration, pulverization, shredding, melting, sanding, and chemical treatment.
This method does not actually destroy data but makes the drive inoperable preventing data recovery. It should be carried out at an approved facility by trained and authorized personnel.
Advantages
  • Drives can be reused
  • Increases the remarketing value of the printer or copy machine
  • Several hard drives can be erased simultaneously by using an erasure station
  • Software tools that provide detailed reporting of the erasure process are able to validate the erasure of every hard drive.
  • Convenient way to erase data
  • Can be performed in-house eliminating the risk of media being stolen during storage or transit to a third party.
  • Capable of destroying all the data on the hard drive
  • Can be used to destroy data on a variety of magnetic hard drives irrespective of the drive interface
  • Fast and simple process
  • One time investment
  • An effective way of destroying data if carried out correctly
  • Large amounts of media can be destroyed at once
Disadvantages
  • Cannot be used if the the hard drive is damaged or is not writeable.
  • Hard drives have to be physically removed from the printer or copy machine
  • Software tools that do not generate detailed reporting of the erasure process are unable to provide a gapless audit trail
  • Modern hard drives use thicker shielding and require a much stronger electromagnetic field in order to ensure a complete erasure
  • No way to guarantee that a particular degaussing machine is strong enough to destroy all the data on every hard drive
  • Hard drives have to be physically removed from the printer or copy machine
  • Hard drives cannot be reused and is therefore not an environmentally safe approach
  • Reduces the remarketing value of the printer or copy machine
  • Other components of the drive are also damaged making it difficult to verify the erasure process
  • Degaussing machines are expensive and special care must be taken to protect nearby equipment
  • Often involves using the services of a third party. Theft and uncontrolled handling can lead to unauthorized exposure of confidential data
  • Degaussing does not provide reporting of the erasure process which is needed to prove regulatory compliance
  • Reduces the remarketing value of a PC
  • Can only be used on magnetic media
  • Hard drives cannot be reused and is therefore not an environmentally safe approach.
  • Reduces the remarketing value of the printer or copy machine
  • Usually has to be outsourced to a third party therefore compromising data security as theft and uncontrolled handling can lead to unauthorized exposure of confidential data
  • The time period between the physical destruction of hard drives can create an internal storage and security challenge.
  • Physical destruction does not provide reporting of the erasure process which is needed to prove regulatory compliance
  • If not carried out correctly data can still be recovered from small broken, fragments of the hard drive