Regular readers may recall that in December I blogged about copier, printer and multifunction device security. In an interview, Dennis Amorosano, a senior director of Canon USA, argued that commercial and government organizations routinely neglect to secure such devices. Another story surfaced last weekend that reemphasized his point.
According to The Hook, a Charlottesville, Virginia newspaper, an employee at the University of Virginia Claude Moore Health Sciences Library bought a surplus Canon document scanner (CD-4050N) on eBay for $500. He wanted to use it for some archival work.
However, this person quickly discovered that the scanner's drive had not been wiped clean, and that it contained images of thousands of personal and business checks, one as large $500,000. A Canon brochure on the scanner says that its local disk drive can hold up to 20,000 pages of material which "...are easily retrieved on a local or remote PC."
As it turns out, that the scanner had previously belonged to North Carolina State University where it "had been used in the University cashier's office to copy and endorse incoming checks from June 2004 until April 2006."
I wonder what a skilled (or even not so skilled) identity thief could do if you gave them a copy of a personal or business check with name, address, a signature, in some cases a social security number or telephone number and, of course, detailed bank account information as starting material.
In this case, the scanner-buyer returned it to NC State, which is now in the process of notifying those persons and organizations that had their checks and other documents scanned on the copier. NC State told the Hook that its "staff followed the surplus protocol at the time before it was understood that copiers and this kind of scanner held information in its memory."
NC State didn't indicate whether it was also trying to discover if any other document scanners it sold as surplus might also have followed the same surplus protocol.
By the way, if you Google "Canon CD-4050N," you will quickly find many on eBay or Craigslist clearly listed for sale as a "used check/document scanner." I wonder: How many of those also contain thousands of check images on their hard drives?
Robert N. Charette is a Contributing Editor to IEEE Spectrum and an acknowledged international authority on information technology and systems risk management. A self-described “risk ecologist,” he is interested in the intersections of business, political, technological, and societal risks. Charette is an award-winning author of multiple books and numerous articles on the subjects of risk management, project and program management, innovation, and entrepreneurship. A Life Senior Member of the IEEE, Charette was a recipient of the IEEE Computer Society’s Golden Core Award in 2008.