Updated: Tuesday, 20 Apr 2010, 8:41 AM EDT
Published : Monday, 19 Apr 2010, 10:23 PM EDT
BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - A copy machine may seem harmless, but it's actually a potential jackpot for identity thieves. A CBS News investigation uncovered stunning, confidential information on an old machine in New Jersey from the Buffalo Police Department.
Did you know that almost every digital copier made since 2002 has a hard drive that stores thousands of images and unless you scrub the hard drive they all remain? So your old copier could end up being resold through a warehouse like this in New Jersey, where CBS News investigators bought four used copiers and two of them happened to be old Buffalo Police copiers.
John Johnson of Digital Copier Security said, "We got some documents here in the glass. This machine came from the city of Buffalo Police Sex Crimes Division. This machine has 249,000 copies, has 42,000 prints on it, and it's also used as a fax machine."
A half hour later, the hard drive was removed, then using a forensic software program available free on the internet, tens of thousands of documents were downloaded including detailed domestic violence complaints, and a list of wanted Buffalo sex offenders. On a second machine from the Buffalo Police Narcotics Unit, CBS News found a list of targets from the Operation Impact Drug raid three years ago.
Common Council President David Franczyk said, "City of Buffalo doesn't want to be on national news for something like that, and I guess my question is, did Toshiba make the City of Buffalo aware that those hard drives were there?"
Apparently not, according to this letter from City attorney Diane O'Gorman thanking CBS for bringing it to the City's attention, and politely demanding that CBS return the two hard drives to the city within five business days. O'Gorman says the Law Department was unaware that confidential information was retained on copiers they leased from Toshiba.
In addition to the two Buffalo copiers, CBS bought two others, one used by a construction company which still had a list of employees names and social security numbers, the other had been used by a New York Insurance company which had people's medical records and prescription information on the hard drive.
So how far can this information travel? The same day that CBS was there, that New Jersey warehouse was sending out two large shipments of used copiers to Argentina and Singapore.