Among the many services we offer our clients, Cyveillance monitors the internet for important client documents that are meant to be kept inside an organization. Nearly every day we find examples of valuable intellectual property posted on the internet where it can be used by competitors and fraudsters. Even foreign governments seeking industry secrets to assist their own defense and technology industries can find sensitive documents posted online.
Yesterday CBS News ran a story titled Digital Photocopiers Loaded with Secrets. It described how the common digital copy machines used today can be a serious threat to an organization’s security because they often create and save digital versions of the documents they scan onto the copier’s own internal hard drive. These copiers are often leased by office supply firms to offices, and when the copiers are eventually returned, the data stored on the hard drive goes out the door with the copier to unknown destinations.
Investigators with CBS bought four previously used copy machines and uncovered highly sensitive documents on every one of them. The copiers contained criminal records, sensitive architectural blueprints, and even consumer health records. As reporter Armen Keteylan described the situation, “If you’re in the identity theft business, this has to be some kind of pot of gold.”
While the copiers examined in the CBS story appeared to originate in the New York area, imagine what would have been found if they examined copy machines from the nation’s capitol. The story underscores the importance of end-to-end security of high-value documents and sensitive information within an organization. Even in the unlikely scenario of perfect information protection compliance by employees if the copier that leaves the building contains an archive of recent years’ documents, the organization has been breached.
Today’s threat landscape is more risky than ever. Organizations need to think more like their competitors, fraudsters, and agents overseas if they have any hope of keeping their data secure. Otherwise, like the document-laden copiers in the CBS story being shipped from New Jersey to Argentina and Singapore we will continue to give away our one of our most valuable assets.