Boo! The printer just might be haunted

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Ghouls, ghosts and goblins. These ghastly Halloween creatures are creeping in the shadows, waiting to give you a fright. But thereís another type of scare lurking in your home and you may not be aware of the harm it could cause.

Better Business Bureau is celebrating Cybersecurity Awareness Month throughout October, providing tips on how to lock up your digital life.

Printers. They sit, unsuspecting, in our homes printing and scanning documents. You may think these documents only live digitally on your computer and physically on the paper in front of you. But that is not the case; printer memory is separate from computer memory.

Digital multifunction printers have been around for the last decade. They contain built-in memory (RAM) to store documents semi-permanently. That means the birth certificates you copied, the tax forms you printed or the family photos you scanned may still be lingering and living on your home printer.

The problem arises when youíre ready to get rid of or sell this device. Most people know that when it comes time to tossing old devices, itís important to wipe computers, tablets and cellphones clean. But printer hard drives are often forgotten. Since they may also contain sensitive information, itís important to take necessary precautions there as well.

First, check for any external storage like SD card readers to make sure theyíre empty. These slots are usually located on the front or sides of the device.

Next, youíll need to clear the printerís temporary storage. Usually this can be done by unplugging the power cord from the printer for 60 seconds or more. Long-term memory is erased after more jobs are completed. A typical printer may store 15-20 jobs so this may mean printing unimportant documents to purge the sensitive ones.

Last, check the manual on steps to perform a factory reset.

But be aware that the ghosts donít stop there.

Printers are an office staple. They often do more jobs than one, completing tasks like copies, scans and faxes. Commercial printers have a far larger memory capacity, storing thousands of documents on one machine. But think of the information that goes through one office copier: sensitive HR documents, payroll statements, client information.

Keeping personally identifiable information secure is every businessís responsibility. Commercial printers are often re-leased or resold so itís important to wipe the machine clean of sensitive information. This is especially crucial for regulated industries that must comply with regulations like HIPAA or FACTA.

Clearing the RAM on larger printers is a bit more complicated. The hard drive itself needs to be removed and either digitally rewritten or physically destroyed. Remember to clear any captured data like emails or network information.

Donít let old documents creep up from the dead.

BBB is here to help you so if you have any questions or information about scams you have seen, please let us know. Jason can be reached at jason.kama@thebbb.org or 208-493-2431.

For more information on businesses and complaints, find the contact information for your closest office at https://www.bbb.org/local-bbb/bbb-northwest-pacific.

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About BBB: For more than 100 years, the Better Business Bureau has helped people find businesses, brands, and charities they can trust. In 2017, people turned to BBB more than 160 million times for BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.2 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at www.bbb.org.

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