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FTC Targets Copy Machine Privacy Concerns 89

Posted by kdawson
from the hotting-up dept.
itwbennett writes "In a letter to US Representative Ed Markey, FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said that the FTC has begun contacting copy machine makers, resellers, and office supply stores to inform them about privacy concerns over the images that can be stored on the machines' hard drives and trying to 'determine whether they are warning their customers about these risks ... and whether manufacturers and resellers are providing options for secure copying.'"
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FTC Targets Copy Machine Privacy Concerns

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  • by r_jensen11 (598210) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @04:38PM (#32258384)

    FTC discovers that there are, on average, 42 scans of people's bottoms per Copy Machine.

    Now back to you, Jim!

  • About time... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FaxeTheCat (1394763) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @04:42PM (#32258420)
    When I was involved in a tender for MFCs five years ago, this was one of the issues raised... by the vendors. Some claimed they were the only ones that had it, but they were wrong. All the major ones had it. At that time they offered both encryption of all userdata on the local hard drive, and also automatic overwriting of all user data after it was printed.
    At the time these were options that one needed to pay extra for, but for anybody concerned with privacy issues, it was available.

    One can, of course, ask why the above options are not standard. After all, it is just a question of enabling some software options.
    • Re:About time... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by ducomputergeek (595742) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @05:12PM (#32258672)

      Why leave money on the table? If you can charge more for those features, do so. If they really are just a configuration change, then you can offer those modules "free" or at a "substantial discount" if you need to make the sale else never take less than what the customer is willing to give you.

      • Re:About time... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by laughingcoyote (762272) <{moc.eticxe} {ta} {lwohtsehgrab}> on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @06:54PM (#32259476) Journal

        And this kind of rent seeking behavior for things that should be getting done anyway, is the exact type of thing that leads to the regulations that will shortly be forthcoming here (hopefully, in this and many other scenarios).

        It's amazing to me how many corporations fail to act with a fundamental level of decency and do the absolute minimum possible in terms of customer service and quality (or sell reasonable levels of those as a "premium service"), then howl and scream when people find that unacceptable and put regulations in place that require them to do what they should've been doing anyway. It amazes me more that anyone would defend that type of behavior.

        If companies really want to stop hostility and regulation toward them, they should open a dialogue (a real one) with their customers, in terms of what they want, what they will pay to get it, what is negotiable, and what is not. Especially as choices become fewer and fewer, a lot of larger companies seem to think they can get away with anything and shrug off the loss of a few customers. At that point, the only option left is regulation. One way or another, the customer's going to be king, and you better treat him accordingly. Squeezing every nickel out you can is anything but.

        • Re:About time... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by swb (14022) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @08:11PM (#32259896)

          A conversation about what they want?

          The vendor wants what everyone *wants* -- a new Mercedes every 2 years, not flying coach, a boob job for his wife AND mistress, and you to pay for it.

          How hard is that to understand?

          • You really thought I meant what the "vendor" wants? I don't care. I mean what the -customer- wants.

            And please don't presume to think your personal desires apply to everything. I really don't give two shits about what you put forth, and I don't think I'm at all the only one. Give me something interesting to work at and something new to learn over those anyday. I don't even like driving anymore that well. Give me a new Mercedes every two years, and I'll still generally ride my bike. Mercedes get caught in tra

            • Customer wants a pony, a unicorn, and about a dozen flying monkeys. Oh, and for nothing. If you ask them. Already we're about 10% cheaper than our competitor. Sometimes even more when we're going in and installing on existing hardware. But we also offer merchant accounts (Credit Card Processing) and will discount our "on-premise implementation consulting" fees if needed to land a deal. However, those costs are on par with our competition and if a client doesn't object, we don't discount. Again, why

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by noidentity (188756)
      It makes sense to avoid using the same area of the hard disk for each copy, because you'd otherwise wear it out quickly. So you use different areas for temporary storage each copy. But this leaves a history of the last N copies. So in secure mode, you could just encrypt the temporary file with a key generated on-the-fly and only kept in memory. Once you're done, you erase the key, leaving the files inaccessible. Just be sure you aren't the owner of the copy machine, or else you could get arrested for having
  • were those who were tasked with writing the software powering these copiers?

    Gee, this software may be used in a government office where highly sensitive documents may be scanned. I won't really "delete" any files though, because they might want to recover them, but that's advanced stuff, so I shouldn't inform them that I'm making that copy, it should be a surprise when they call in for support! And in our models where we do allow deleting, we'll just quietly move them to another directory, again for th
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I DO work for a printer company that makes multi-function printers that can, in fact, make copies AND write data to an internal hard drive. Except, the conditions for it to do so, at least on the printers we make, require you to be doing a job that you are specifically saving to disk to be printed at a later time (that is, you or the admin set it up that way, as that is not the default that we ship) or you have temporarily locked the machine from making ANY printouts until an unlock code is entered. In bo

      • deleted as in fat delete? or fake deleted?

        fat delete can be some times be undeleted.

        But some boxes / tivos do a fake delete that just removes that data from the list but it's still there likely in some temp file.

      • by DavidTC (10147)

        Why don't you suggest that your company just go ahead and secure-wipe all files all the time?

        I mean, it's a frickin copier. It's not like it's pinning the CPU.

        You don't even have to 'secure' wipe. That's for suckers. No one has ever demonstrated the ability to reconstruct data on a modern hard drive that's been overwritten just once. (All those studies about multi-pass were a) hypothetical, and b) based on old MFM encoding and much wasteful hard drives.)

        Hell, there's probably a shared library you can lin

  • That's nothing. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @04:46PM (#32258468)

    That's nothing.

    Lots of places still use old brother fax / copy / print machines which utilize "ribbons" instead of ink or toner. This is what they look like

    PC-301 [images-amazon.com]

    It's basically a big carbon transfer sheet. You find these old machines in doctors offices. law offices. etc. Where the owner is too lazy to upgrade their hardware.

    They throw out the used ribbon. Guess what? Its literally hundreds of feet of perfect, inverted copies of faxed information. Forms with medical information. SSN numbers. Private legal information. ETC.

    All it requires is someone to be lazy enough to throw it away, and someone else bored enough to go dumpster dive.

  • by netsavior (627338) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @04:53PM (#32258518)
    My business users did not think to ask IT when they selected a model of fax/scan/copier

    It had really cool features like the ability to scan tons of documents all at once, then you go back to your computer and download them from a network share!! such a productivity booster!

    So this nice $250k device, which they bought, with no security... which of course did not pass standard security audit...

    Scanning confidential documents happens every day... and at the bank for which I work, we take it pretty seriously.
    Even disabling the network interface wasn't enough, because users could *accidentally* scan/copy a document and set it to store, which could be accessed by non-permitted individuals. In the end they ended up taking a bath on the whole device.
  • You're kidding? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by U8MyData (1281010)
    This has been an issue ever since they started pasting PC's on the backs and sides of copiers. What is that now? Something in excess of 10 years?
    • by uncqual (836337)
      Actually, for perhaps 35 years :)

      I recall the early laser printers in use internally at Xerox - the ones I saw were a standard copier modified/altered to be a printer. From a distance, the biggest hint that it was a printer and not a copier was an extra box stuck on the end and, behold, an Alto nearby.

      Of course, IIRC, they wouldn't function as a copier anymore, so maybe it doesn't count.

      Now get off my lawn.
  • Windows (Score:4, Informative)

    by bcrowell (177657) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @04:57PM (#32258552) Homepage

    It's apparently pretty common for these machines to run an embedded copy of Windows these days. I know someone who was a sysadmin at UC Berkeley a few years back, and she had to clean up the mess when their photocopier picked up a Windows virus and became a spam zombie. This seems similar to the kind of situation we're seeing with people's home routers and cable modems getting owned. The basic problem seems to be that the end user buys something that is a general-purpose computer, but the manufacturer doesn't present it to them as a general-purpose computer that needs maintenance, security patches, etc., and the manufacturer may also choose an initial configuration that is designed for ease of use rather than security (e.g., having passwords that the user doesn't set).

    If the only problem was getting your images read out by someone else when the machine is resold, that would seem pretty minor to me. Can't they just design the machine so that the memory used for temporary storage of images is volatile? Then as soon as you unplug the machine that you're going to resell, the memory is wiped.

    But if your copier is getting owned by hackers while you're still using it, then the presence of the left-over images seems like it becomes a bigger issue, and harder to secure yourself against.

    • by tepples (727027)

      Can't they just design the machine so that the memory used for temporary storage of images is volatile?

      RAM is not free, especially RAM to store scans of a 40-page document. So they store the scans on a hard drive. I guess one workaround for the cost of RAM would be to encrypt the scans on disk and keep the keys in RAM.

      • by Lehk228 (705449)
        the easier workaround is to have the drive be removable and have the buyer install their own drive
        • by swb (14022)

          Then they lose the opportunity to charge you $1500 for a 20 gig hard disk.

      • Re:Windows (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Todd Knarr (15451) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @05:35PM (#32258882) Homepage

        Easier option: the copier deletes the files from the hard drive after the copy run's completed and the images aren't needed anymore. Ditto when documents are scanned and delivered elsewhere (eg. e-mailed to the user). Only store them permanently when the user scans them in and deliberately stores them in the copier. It's not that hard to make it behave that way.

        • the copier deletes the files from the hard drive after the copy run's completed and the images aren't needed anymore.

          Files that aren't encrypted can be undeleted [wikipedia.org].

        • From a security perspective, making the user affirm that they are, in fact, super-double sure that they want to save something makes perfect sense.

          From a UI/human interaction perspective, it is kind of a walking disaster. Humans are lazy, clueless, and easily distracted(even the smart ones, if you catch them at a bad moment, which everybody has).

          Unless you make copiers for Spook HQ(and possibly even then), you'll get far more flack for "the copier lost my document" than you will praise for "the copier
    • by fat_mike (71855)
      Are you kidding me? So all I have to do is put Windows or Microsoft in the title and spew a bunch of BS and its rated informative?

      Can you prove any of your claims other than you knew a Systems Administrator at Berkley (that has lots of them) telling you that their copiers used Windows?

      Our Canon imageRunner's 5000 and 5070 don't use Windows nor do our Dell's or our HP's for that matter.

      Or our color copier "a few years back" that used a Silicon Graphics Toaster.

      I've been doing this for 18.5 year
  • Is there a constitutional law that was properly added to "the books" that requires copiers have "secure option," that sellers notify buyers of privacy concerns, and so on? Or, is Obama's administration just legislating by decree again?

  • I cant remember the last time ive had to use a copier for any non-gluteus-maximus related graphics...
  • All that would be stored on these HDD in the machines are pictures of peoples naughty bits anyways. Isn't that what people use copiers for?
  • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @05:37PM (#32258900)

    Of course they don't give a damn about the serial numbers that each copier embeds in every page they print. [eff.org]

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I work for a copier manufacturer and can shed a little info for those that are interested.

    Small office multifunction devices (MFD's) typically don't have hard drives and run embedded real-time operating systems. Some of the newest models DO have SATA hard drives, but the ability to enable "Immediate Image Overwrite" is well documented in the manual and is free.

    Mid-sized copier-only configuration machines use Electronic Page Collation RAM to store scanned images and there is no hard drive.

    Mid-sized multifunc

    • by swb (14022)

      I suspect that this is more of an "issue" farther down the food chain.

      Large entities and/or especially those with security experience (banks, defense contractors, law enforcement) are probably naturally suspicious of any duplication technology and ask a ton of questions. They're also used to dealing with vendors who have experience selling to this field and understand that a low-level how-it-works transparency is necessary, probably both to win the business AND avoid some kind of Federal investigation in c

  • Been in the business 30 years (AS A TECH, NOT A SALESMAN). This is just another red herring that give the government something else to do. Unless the I.T. department where the machine is located is completely STUPID they have to know these new "MFP's" have a hard drive. Most of these boxes in the last couple years have encryption, data scramblers, or DoD wipe built in, but, as with OTHER SECURITY measures, it is the END USERS responsiblity, NOT the dealer to turn these features on. 99.9% of the time, the
  • Like the copy machine makers will openly admit they did not tell their customers about the hard drive feature in their copy machines.

    What's with the size of those hard drives? They don't need to be so large. Seems as though a small flash drive could be just as efficient.

    Also look at the money they will be getting just to supply a app to erase that data. Total rip off.

    I am crying foul over the whole deal. Just give it a little time, and someone will create a free app to clean those hard drives. I bet it

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