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Before you recycle your fax machine

A Vintage Fax Machine, time to recycle your old one.

Recycle your fax machine

While its common practice to format or erase memory on electronic devices before you dispose, recycle or sell it.  It is really an uncommon practice that is done with older fax machines.  Even so, if you do erase the contents of a fax machine are you actually erasing everything?

The answer is likely a no. There are many people that are unaware that many old school fax machines (even those without memory capability) can store a “copy” of your received faxes.  How is this possible?  With a thermal “print cartridge” technology that is commonly used in most plain-paper fax machines.

If you have a fax machine that uses a thermal print cartridge roll, it is storing an image of every single fax page you’ve received. While that isn’t a big deal while you own the machine, what happens if you suddenly decide you want to give away, sell or dispose your fax machine? You could be giving out sensitive information to prying eyes without knowing it.  As well, simply replacing a used thermal print cartridge on your fax machine and disposing the old one could expose your received faxes to prying eyes.

For someone to view these received faxes, you don’t need any special hacker skills or computer know-how.  All that is required is to remove the thermal carbon roll from the fax machine and read it like a paper scroll against a back-light. Your suspect will have the information they’re looking for and carbon-dirty fingers.

Unfortunately, many people don’t properly dispose their fax machine and a secure method to dispose/recycle a fax machine really doesn’t exist unless you destroy the thermal print cartridge roll first (making the fax machine unusable, until the roll/cartridge is replaced.)

If you are recycling your fax machine, you should ensure all memory is erased properly and perform a full reset as suggested by the manufacturer of the fax machine. You should remove the thermal print cartridge roll and dispose (destroy) it separately.

If you plan on selling your fax machine, you could replace the cartridge roll with a new one (or inform the buyer that they would require a new cartridge roll)

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