Talking tech since 2003

A potentially disastrous flaw in a number of Xerox scanners and photocopiers has been discovered by a German blogger named David Kriesel. Kriesel, who writes in English and German, has discovered that the Xerox Workcentre 7535 and Workcentre 7556 have an issue where numbers are randomly replaced in scanned and copied documents.

Take a look at this image Kriesel provides that illustrates the problem:


As you can see, a few of the sixes on the left have been turned into eights on the right. Interestingly, it’s not a simple reproduction problem, as the eights have more of an indent than the sixes do, and some of the sixes survived from the original to the copy. This, and other examples on Kriesel’s post, seem to prove that the copiers are swapping out numbers more or less at random.

This is such an insidious problem for a few reasons. One, the issue was discovered on machines running old firmware, as well as the latest updates, meaning that it’s gone unnoticed for a long while. Two, the problems are pretty tough to spot just by taking a quick look. I can verify that based on my own experiences as a former proofreader for a newspaper I used to write for—unless you look very, very closely, many mistakes can slip right by you, regardless of how much attention you pay to details.

Third, as Kriesel points out, an error like this can actually wind up being very dangerous if not corrected. Copies of bluerpints, for example, could be subject to this error, and cause people to work on construction with the wrong specifications. That alone could lead to injuries or worse, and that could potentially leave the person who provided the blueprints liable in the case of an accident.

The blog post notes that Xerox has been made aware of the bug and is beginning to look into finding a cause—and more importantly, a fix—for the problem. In the meantime, if you’re making copies or scans, take a closer look than you might have before.

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