Xerox To Issue Patch For Faulty Printer Scans

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Xerox printers have been changing numbers in scanned documents. A software patch is on its way

Printer and copier giant Xerox has confirmed it will issue a software patch to remedy an unusual fault discovered with its multifunction printer or MFP (an office machine that incorporates a printer, scanner, and photocopier).

Earlier this week, a German computer scientist by the name of David Kriesel highlighted a problem with some of Xerox’s Workcentre MFPs. Essentially, the problem occurs with the scanner, as it can randomly alter (or switch) written numbers in any pages that are scanned.

Fatal Error?

The issue could prove to be very problematic indeed, as it might cause  invoices to be sent out with incorrect financial numbers or account information.

xerox-logoEven worse, construction plans for a bridge or building that contains vital load bearing construction numbers for example could contain errors, which potentially could have fatal consequences. Another potential problem could come with medical documents bearing the incorrect dosages etc. All of these examples could pose a number of legal headaches for the companies involved.

Kriesel insisted that the scanner problem is not to do with the machine’s OCR (optical character recognition) capabilities, but the number switching problem has been instead been blamed on a common compression technique that is widely used by the industry.

Kriesel provided examples of construction plans that included incorrect numbers, after the machine swopped the numbers used when the construction plans were scanned in.

And Xerox has moved quickly to confirm there is an issue and it is working on a fix. However the company said the problem would only occur if people alter the default settings on the machine.

Xerox Apology

“There have been reports regarding errors with the scanning function of some of our office devices in which characters can potentially be substituted for others,” wrote Rick Dastin, corporate VP at the Office and Solutions Business Group at Xerox in a corporate blog posting. “This does not impact standard printing, copying and traditional fax functions. In fact, the vast majority of our customers will not experience any issues.”

Dastin said that customers worried about the problem can reset their scanning defaults, and also apply a software patch, which the company is currently working on.

“Xerox is developing a software patch that can be remotely downloaded to each device,” wrote Dastin. “The software patch will disable the highest compression mode thus completely eliminating the possibility for character substitution.  Xerox will begin rolling out the patch within a few weeks.”

Dastin also stressed that all Xerox devices shipped from the factory are set with the right compression level and resolution settings. “You will not see a character substitution issue when scanning with the factory default settings,” Daston wrote.

“We apologise for any confusion and inconvenience this has caused our customers,” Dastin concluded. “We are working tirelessly to address these issues – working closely with our partners and customer service teams across the globe to both proactively inform customers as well as help them solve the issue.”

Problems associated with printers and MFPs tend to be few and far between. However as these office machines are increasingly web-enabled, there is growing concern that IT departments are not taking printer security seriously enough.

In an effort to tackle this, Xerox teamed up with McAfee in February 2012 to protect sensitive data stored on office printers.

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