Your Printer Contains Sensitive Data 4 Ways to Safely Get Rid of It

Printers are tempting targets for hackers because they contain sensitive information, although most people underestimate this. They can store usernames, passwords, credit card numbers, social security numbers, and other personal details.

Once an attacker has access to your printer, they can do all kinds of nasty things, including sending rejected print jobs, performing Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, and data theft extortion.

So how do you get rid of sensitive data on your printer to prevent unauthorized access and misuse?

1. Unplug your printer for a while

Most consumer-grade printers have very little storage memory, and it is usually volatile memory. To clear the memory, unplug the printer and let it sit for a while before plugging it back in. Data is likely to be lost.

Be aware that some printers use volatile memory with battery backup. In this case, check the printer’s user manual for instructions on how long to unplug the printer before the data is erased.

2. Clean the disc drive

Multifunction printers (MFPs) with large internal storage often include a secure wipe disc option in their settings. If your printer has a disc drive, use the Wipe Disc function to remove sensitive data from your printer.

If you have trouble finding reset instructions, you can usually find them online by doing a simple Internet search that includes your printer’s make and model.

For consumer-grade printers, if you have just printed a document containing confidential information and want to decommission the device, it is standard practice to print several non-confidential documents afterward to flush the memory.

While you can erase your printer’s removable hard drive using disk eraser software, the process often involves lengthy step-intensive instructions.

3. Destroy the Hard Drive

The type of printer you have is largely determined by whether or not it has a hard drive. For example, MFPs often have hard drives that record and store data, so any documents you’ve scanned or printed may still be present in the device.

Data is usually stored on the hard drive, so the printer can print faster and multitask. You can physically destroy the hard drive to make the data recoverable.

Considering printer hard drives can be difficult to find, you need to know what to look for if the printer has any form of storage. The ability to reprint an already printed file, reorder the printer queue, and hold or forward incoming faxes are all indications of internal storage.

If you’re getting rid of the printer altogether, you might want to actually ditch the drive. To destroy the hard drive, remove it from the printer and place it on a sturdy surface. Then destroy it physically, that is, until it breaks from the inside.

If your printer includes memory card slots for items such as camera cards, remember to check whether you left any cards inside.

4. Clear Direct Email Function

To send email from the printer’s front panel, all-in-one printers with direct email functions (as opposed to those that bring up the client on your PC) often require you to set up SMTP information, including your password. If you’ve set it up, make sure you remove your password before disassembling the printer.

Your printer may store sensitive data

The security threats associated with printers are no different from those associated with any other device, including computers and mobile devices. This is mostly because many modern printers have some sort of internal memory that allows them to store a significant number of files.

Printers with hard drives or volatile memory can store sensitive data that you copy, print, scan or fax. Any confidential document that passes through them, including medical records, credit card numbers and Social Security numbers, is stored in the printer’s memory and can be retrieved by anyone who knows where to find it. So don’t take this risk lightly!

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