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Before Getting Rid of Your Old Printer, Say “Goodbye” to Lingering Data

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In the security business, there’s a lot of talk about protecting your smartphones and computers from malware and viruses, as well as loss and theft. It makes sense. Most of us use our smartphones and computers on a daily basis and keep important information on them like passwords, user names, and credit card numbers. But there are other devices that hold sensitive data that we don’t really talk about. For example, printers.

Some printers have internal hard drives or flash memory that store documents that have been scanned. This means that images of your pay stub, medical records, credit card statements, or any other sensitive documents you once scanned are stored in the printer’s memory and therefore retrievable by someone who knows where to look for it.

Because these hard drives are usually hard to find, they are usually not removed before a printer is resold or recycled. That can be bad news for you if your printer gets into the wrong hands.

If your printer is nearing the end or you are upgrading to a new printer, make sure you delete that important data off your old printer.

How do you get rid of your printer’s data? There are multiple ways.

  • Unplug your printer for a while. This will delete data if there’s no local storage. Check your printer’s user guide to see how long to leave your printer unplugged until the data is removed.
  • Clear the direct email function. If your printer has this feature, make sure to delete your password before getting rid of the printer.
  • Wipe the disk drive. If your printer has a disk drive feature, use the wipe disk to make sure your data is not accessible by others.
  • Destroy the hard drive. If you decide to trash a printer rather than reselling it, take it apart and find the hard drive. Remove it and hammer it. But remember, safety first. Make sure you wear those safety glasses.

Follow these tips and sell or recycle your printer with peace of mind, knowing that nobody will be able to retrieve your personal information.

Robert Siciliano is an Online Security Expert to McAfee. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Mobile was Hacked! Disclosures.

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