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Flaw in Xerox copiers sees scanned documents rewritten

(Update 1: Xerox shed more light about the issue with the following statement. The issue affects only the scanning feature of the MFP, not photocopying. Character transformation will only occur if two separate settings are altered by the user when performing a scan. The vast majority of Xerox customers are unlikely to be affected by this issue. FInd more about how to solve that issue in this statement from Xerox)

Xerox MFPs (Multi-function printers) are reportedly changing numbers on documents and recreating history in a flawed process that could lead to future legal problems for the company.

German computer scientist David Kriesel reported on his blog that his Xerox MFP had changed the room dimensions on detailed construction plans he had devised.

The BBC reports that other users have complained of similar problems, all of which are being blamed on faulty compression software used by various Xerox MFPs.

Kriesel’s post expresses concern that, if numbers were changed on vital invoices, it would leave the company open to legal action if a fix is not discovered soon.

Niri Shan, partner at London law firm Taylor Wessing, reiterated these concerns.

"The person who provided the figures would be liable [for any issues]. Then the question would be, could they turn round to the photocopying company and say, 'Hold on a minute, this is your fault'?" Shan observed.

"Often in commercial contracts, the manufacturer may have limitations of liability on consequential loss," he added.

Kriesel found in his tests that the number six would be substituted by an eight, with the same thing happening to various other numbers and the dimensions of one room plan reduced from 21.11m to 14.13m.

The changes are caused by Jbig2, an image compression standard that is used in scanners and copiers to make scans smaller. The two models Kriesel found faults with are the Xerox Workcentre 7535 and 7556, with comments on his blog identifying other machines that are also affected.

Xerox was apparently unaware the problem existed until Kriesel alerted them to it. The firm has yet to issue anything to fix the problem, although the multi-national is preparing a statement that will be provided in due course.

Image Credit: Flickr (zrs_one)