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The Dangers that Lurk Behind Every Photocopier

What if computers could actually aid us in committing crimes with ease?

I know that doesnt sound novel. But then, who knew that a crime could be executed in public, in
broad daylight, with style and without anyone even suspecting it? What if having an unassuming
computer could open up a possibility of committing a variety of offenses?

Introduction

Two weeks ago, our Technology and the Law professor has tasked us a paper work with a
theme: What provisions of the Revised Penal Code or special laws can be aggravated by the use
of a computer? He even gave us an example of a person being tied up on a chair being sexually
assaulted with the use of a machine, a computer stuff to that effect. I thought that was one
vivid exampleand it worried me.

So I got into thinking for several days as to how I could best come up with a paperwork that
could best typify our theme. Off I went to work one day and in the middle of the day, a
maintenance personnel of Ubix came in for his usual monthly inventory of our departments
photocopier usage. It sucks to think that everything you utilize in the office has to be accounted
for, right? I asked Ver, the representative of Ubix, what he checks. He told me our monthly usage
of the photocopier. I asked again: How? With the ink level? . He answered: No, how many
papers you (the office) have photocopied. I wondered, how could he know that when our papers
are being supplied by our Property Department? And voila! It hit me!!!!

Brief background on photocopiers

A photocopier (also known as a copier or copy machine) is an electronic machine that


makes copies of images and documents. 1 So who else in this room has not seen one yet?
As far as I know, photocopiers have been around for decades already. Back in the 80s, I can
recall that in high school (Okay Im old! Happy?!) we had tons of school materials that we had to
have Xeroxed to keep up with our subjects. It was just so in when you would be holding a
photocopied material of your lesson.

Photocopy machines back then were bulkier and the lines for them were always long that one has
to be armed with a lot of patience and time when cuing for one. Once it was your turn already,
the Xerox person would even warn you to stay back lest you get blown off that dark powder
that comes out of the machine. And when you finally get your copy, one was obviously observed
enjoying the warm paper and that distinct smell that comes from a photocopy paper.

The humble photocopier then could only do as much before it breaks down, wanting to be
serviced.

1 http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/photocopier, August 26, 2016


The present-day photocopier

Little did we know that as the years have passed photocopy machines have evolved to become
more and more sophisticated, its functions likewise multiplied and improved. They can now
perform back to back photocopying, wireless (wifi) photocopying, multi-sized photocopying, be
secured with passwords (like in ours, which incidentally I do not have the privilege of knowing),
multi-color functions, fax, scan, laser printer and much more. They even look intimidatingly
sleeker with touch screen control panels. It has become digital! Truly, having a photocopier in
the office or a business establishment is now a necessity. It has made reproducing original
documents very swift and economical. With just a touch of a button, your original document has
a functional equivalent.

So what does a photocopier have to do with my assignment?

Simple hacking!

Computer hacking is the practice of modifying computer hardware and software to accomplish a
goal outside of the creators original purpose. 2 In the old times people who were not adept to
doing technical stuff but still tried the D.I.Y. (do-it-yourself) way were called hackers. The term
hacker has since gone a long way to the present and eased itself into the computer generation.

Picture yourself in your office. Do you want to find out how much your officemates are making?
What about their addresses and personal details? How about their bank details? Isnt it enticing
to find out the content of the memo your boss has served to the other bosses or your colleague?
What evaluation did your secret crush get last evals? How about this, do you want to find out
what the latest projects or strategies the other departments are cooking up? Do you want to know
other peoples or offices biggest, deepest secrets? What is the health issue of this person who is
always on leave for health reasons? Wonder no more. You do not have to go on a stake out any
longer to hack their computers or personal mobile phones. Just go to the photocopy machine!

This is scary but is very real. The humble, unassuming photocopier is a wealth of information, a
gold mine.3

Philippine laws related to hacking

Our country has already enacted laws intended to address the growing issues relative to the
worldwide computer and internet misusage. In 2000, a landmark legislation was passed and took

2 http://www.wisegeek.org/what-is-computer-hacking.htm, August 26, 2016

3
https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2010/03/18/hightech_copy_machines_a_gold_mine_for_da
ta_thieves.html, August 26, 2016
effect, Republic Act No. 8792, otherwise known as the Electronic Commerce Act of 2000.
Specific in this statute is defining what a lawful access is in Section 31 which provides, to wit:

Section 31. Lawful Access. - Access to an electronic file, or an electronic signature of an


electronic data message or electronic document shall only be authorized and enforced in
favor of the individual or entity having a legal right to the possession or the use of plaintext,
electronic signature or file or solely for the authorized purposes.xxx

Corollary to that, the E-Commerce Law provides an official introduction of term hacking in the
legal world. Section 33 of the same law provides, to wit:

Section 33. Penalties. - The following Acts, shall be penalized by fine and/or imprisonment,
as follows:

(a) Hacking or crackling with refers to unauthorized access into or interference in a computer
system/server or information and communication system; or any access in order to
corrupt, alter, steal, or destroy using a computer or other similar information and
communication devices, without the knowledge and consent of the owner of the
computer or information and communications system, including the introduction of
computer viruses and the like, resulting in the corruption, destruction, alteration, theft or
loss of electronic data messages or electronic documents.
xxxx

Clearly, the above-mentioned sections put things in perspective, that a data generated through the
use of a computer must be accessed only by authorized people and that such violation instantly
transforms such access into hacking.

In 2012, the Philippine Congress has enacted Republic Act 10173 or the Data Privacy Act to
address to growing issue on identity theft or the unauthorized access, use or publication of any
private information of a person.

Sec 13, of R.A. 10173 provides an instance when private information of a person could be
violated, to wit:

SEC. 13. Sensitive Personal Information and Privileged Information. The processing of
sensitive personal information and privileged information shall be prohibited.

Of course, this provision comes with exceptions such as when the subject person consents, in the
interest of the public, in matters of health etc. when necessary processing of ones information
can be had. With processing, the same law provides that it is the process anywhere from data
collection to its disposal, of a persons nitty-gritty, the very substance that every person protects.
It is also provided in the Data Privacy Act that penalties for different kinds of violations are also
different in terms of fines and imprisonment if found guilty.
Another set of important provisions belonging to another landmark statute that could very well
find application to possible crimes with the use of computers are illegal access 4 and computer-
related identity theft5, Secs. 4 a(1), 4 b(3) respectively of R.A. 10175 otherwise known as the
Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012. With illegal access, it is now unlawful to pry into anothers
computer system, even unintentionally, as it violates the privacy of the data to which the
computer or computer system belongs. As regards computer-related identity theft, the law
acknowledges the propensity of illicit minds to use computer-obtained personal data belonging to
another for purposes undesirable to its owner.

These laws actually provide the protection that everyone needs in order to thrive into this
generation, the computer age. With a multitude of ways that any meaning person can resort to in
order to dig up anothers gen, this law serves as a deterrent that such is not permissible under
legal circumstances. And what are the reasons for such persons to be interested in anothers
information? Also a multitude that one can ever imagine. From blackmail, to forgery, to libel, the
motives are endless and pose a great threat to ones sanity and security.

Piecing it together

You may be wondering now exactly how a copier can actually aggravate the private data of a
person. The answer is in the memory!

4 R.A. 10175, Section 4. Cybercrime Offenses. The following acts constitute the offense
of cybercrime punishable under this Act:(a) Offenses against the confidentiality, integrity
and availability of computer data and systems:
(1) Illegal Access. The access to the whole or any part of a computer system without right .

5 R.A. 10175, Section 4. Cybercrime Offenses. The following acts constitute the offense
of cybercrime punishable under this Act:xxx
(b) Computer-related Offenses:
xxx
(3) Computer-related Identity Theft. The intentional acquisition, use, misuse, transfer,
possession, alteration or deletion of identifying information belonging to another, whether
natural or juridical, without right: Provided, That if no damage has yet been caused, the
penalty imposable shall be one (1) degree lower.
6

A computer is a system which has a hard drive, soft drive, input, output and storage systems. 7 A
photocopier is a computer. Being one, it has a hard drive which contains memory. The copier has
a memory that could store up to 10 years of scanned data from its first use. Year 2002 was the
advent when digital copiers came into the market scene. 8 Meaning? It has been since 2002 that
manufactured copiers were sold, widely available and being used which we might not have been
aware of to be actually having a memory sufficient to store that much scanned data good for that
long a period.

In the U.S., people have been aware of dangers in the use of copiers. Research has yielded that
since 2010,9 Americans have been warned to be more cautious in their careless practice of using
copiers in their offices more so in public places.

This inconspicuous machine has the potential of instantly wreaking havoc not only in the
personal lives, more so in the business world and worse, in a states security. The accessibility of
the copier is not restricted enough as ordinary employees, bosses, utilities and even service
technicians can easily tap the system, run through every detail, sort the most prominent, single
out the gold mine and use every material to perform every unlawful act conceivable. There is
actually no need for an unknown outsider to be involved in the physical act of touching the
copier.

6 http://www.svtuition.org/2010/05/office-photocopiers-have-hard-disk.html, August
26, 2016

7 Sec. 3 (d),R.A. 10175

8 http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/it-security/the-truth-about-copier-hard-drives-
tips-for-securing-your-data/, August 26, 2016

9 http://www.cbsnews.com/news/digital-photocopiers-loaded-with-secrets/, August
26, 2016
Imagine some strange person having access to your bank accounts, health records, insurance
policies, real estate documents and other private correspondences. A person who knows where
you live, your family structure, your spending habits, your professional status and personal
affairssomeone who has you right at his fingertips. Now I call that a real scare!

The light at the end of the tunnel

Before you even panic, you might have heard that there is always a solution to every issue, so
calm down. Although this issue on identity theft using photocopiers is not prevalent yet in our
country we have good reason to celebrate. Further, we can even start practicing preventive
measures to protect ourselves, our businesses and our country from this growing threat that first
world countries are battling. We can choose to be spectators or actors, inactive or proactive.
From this article, some measures can be drawn up which are supposedly to be of help:

1. If you have your own scanner and printer (the all-in-one type) at home, do your
photocopying there
2. Should you find yourself needing to photocopy a document, find a photocopier that you
know is secure, the older the better
3. Suggest a clean-up or deletion of the memory file in your office copier
4. Have a service technician access the memory and keep an eye that the memory does not
get replaced with a new one nor copied to another computer.
5. If you think that your files have been illegally accessed and/or used to perpetrate illicit
acts, assert your rights according to the laws which you believe may have been violated.

I rest my case

Having a photocopier has been a big blessing to everyone who benefits from it and use it
regularly and even dependent upon such. This generation has become so complex that there are a
lot of facets to every person, each needing physical back up file, a hard copy for multiple uses
and gains. However, having a photocopied document does not after all assure you of less
troubles. We all have to be keen on all our files and documents to prevent them from getting into
wrong hands. Safeguards have been placed through our laws in order to protect everyone from
being unnecessary victims. It is not only our personal lives but potentially our familys, our
businesses and nations security that could be at stake. Let us all be responsible and guarded in
using the photocopy machine.