New Jersey lawmakers want copier hard drives wiped to prevent ID theft

Is printing dangerous? It definitely has privacy and security implications, according to many.

The New Jersey legislature, for instance, this week passed a bill (A-1238) that says copy machines and scanners should have their hard drives erased or otherwise modified to make sure records stored digitally on them are no longer viewable after the owner gets rid of the machines. That's according to the Courier Post Online, which says the bill's sponsors, New Jersey legislators Paul Moriarty, Herb Conaway and Dan Benson, view this as a way to prevent identity theft when digital copiers and scanners are sold on to others.

RELATED: Do we need data-loss prevention for printers and copiers?

The penalty for not doing that in the way demanded under the bill could run as high as $2,500, and while some might view this as legislative overkill, the concept that printing on digital machines can have privacy and security implications has been long understood by industry experts.

HP, for example, says enterprises are putting in security controls for modern printers used in business to put the brakes on data loss and paper waste by individuals who remotely run print jobs but later forget all about them. This apparently happens a lot.

HP consultant for financial services Roger Lang says the technique known as "secure pull" keeps track of print jobs by requiring users to authenticate with a proximity ID card right at the printer in order to receive the print jobs they ordered. Otherwise these jobs are simply digitally stored and not printed out. Jet Mobile and Pharos Systems are among other vendors offering such secure printing capabilities.

According to Lang, citing a Carnegie-Mellon University study, cleaning crews at night are estimated to throw away somewhere between 15% to 30% of the paper pushed out by printers during the day.

Setting up a centralized server-based system for secure printing in business accomplishes a number of goals, Lang points out. One is that it allows for the internal storage on the printer digitally holding the non-authenticated printing jobs to be automatically purged at a specific time, such as midnight.

Lang also points out that "print governance" via proximity cards can be linked to business processes to keep track of what people are doing with printers, which today have multiple scanning capabilities.

Ellen Messmer is senior editor at Network World, an IDG publication and website, where she covers news and technology trends related to information security.

Read more about wide area network in Network World's Wide Area Network section.

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