An FOI request submitted to 583 public sector organisations has revealed that at least 954 fax machines remain in use across local councils, police forces, universities and fire services. The request, submitted by eFax, also reveals that 149,262 faxes were sent and received in 2019 by these institutions at a total cost of £37,597.08.
In 2018 Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock announced that, from April 2020, there would be a ban on “… the archaic fax machines still used across the NHS when everywhere else got rid of them years ago.” The FOI request, however, shows that fax machines remain widely in use across multiple public sector organisations. While it is concerning enough that the outdated hardware is still prevalent in so many organisations, more worrying is the lack of oversight afforded to faxing. Of the 137 public sector organisations with physical fax machines, 15 percent do not know, or hold no record of, exactly how many are in use. In addition, more than 70 percent have no insight into how many faxes are being sent and received each year.
“While faxing may seem like a communication method of a bygone era, in reality it’s still very much prevalent across a range of organisations,” explains Scott Wilson, director of service, eFax.
“However, fax machines are a serious security risk and, while they’re unlikely to be hacked, they do present a major data protection issue. People leaving printed faxes on the machine for anyone to pick-up; or information sent to the wrong fax number are frequent occurrences. The lack of oversight into how fax machines are being used across the UK’s public sector elevates this risk, leaving data open to exfiltration right in the middle of the office.”
Fax machines are most used within local councils with 511 machines present and 125,269 faxes known to be sent and received. The fire services are the least likely to be using the outdated technology, with just 30 fax machines in use.
“As we’ve seen in the NHS, simply removing faxing as a communication tool altogether is not as easy as it may at first seem. Organisations instead need to look at alternative technologies that keep the communication intact, but in a more modern and secure way,” concludes Wilson.