October 2011Volume 3Number 1PDF icon PDF version (for best printing)

Have you destroyed your memory?

As lawyers we are aware of the necessity to keep client information confidential. We know that our computers have hard drives that must be “cleaned” or destroyed physically before we send them to computer heaven. But did you know that many copiers made after 2002 contain hard drives? CBS News did a special on tracking down used copiers and found hard drives that still contained copies of every document that was copied, scanned or e-mailed from the copier.

These used copiers end up in warehouses where they are sold both here and overseas for around $300 each. These copiers contain up to 40,000 documents or more. The copiers come from hospitals, police departments, law offices, etc. You can imagine the type of information available to whomever purchases the used copier. Not all copiers contain a hard drive, and some newer copiers automatically erase each document or give the operator the choice.

The software necessary to read the hard drives is found for free on the Internet. So what should we do as lawyers before sending our old copiers out the door? First, check with the manufacturer to see if your make and model does indeed have a hard drive (not all do). If you have a hard drive, then remove it or have it removed and destroy it. A sledge hammer works just fine. ■

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