Are Your Printers Vulnerable?

Posted by Advanced Mobile Group on Jan 6, 2023 8:00:00 AM


Computers, networks, and handheld devices all come to mind when you consider the security of your operations. But what about your printers? Are they at risk of cyberattack?

Device manufacturers have made it easier than ever to control a variety of systems over the internet. Most businesses are now leveraging a handful of IoT (Internet of Things) enabled devices, such as sensors, wearables, and printers. And while these devices may seem innocent enough and convenient, they can pose cyber threats by acting as access points to more sensitive company data. 

So, are your business’s printers vulnerable to cyberattacks? Yes, they probably are. 

Printers — The Overlooked Cybersecurity Risk

230110-are-your-printers-vulnerable-1Businesses take a lot of precautions and go to extensive lengths to protect their systems and data from cyberattacks. But it’s not uncommon for many to overlook one or two access points, such as printers. Having an unsecured printer gives cybercriminals access to your data and your entire network. 

Printers might be some of the most vulnerable objects because businesses tend to leave them unprotected. Cybernews brought attention to this issue in 2020 when the publication’s team intentionally hijacked 28,000 unsecured printers worldwide, forcing the devices to print out a guide on printer security. 

Just this year, Quocira, a print industry market insight company, released a study revealing that just over one-quarter (26%) of U.S. IT decision-makers were entirely confident in the security of their print infrastructure. However, 68% of those surveyed had experienced data losses due to nonsecure printing practices. 

Getting Rid of Printers Isn’t the Answer

As businesses strive to take more of their operations paperless, some might wonder if it doesn’t make sense to just ditch all the printers for the sake of security. It’s an interesting thought but not one that will work in practice. 

Prints do much more than just print paper. They print RFID tags used to track products and other valuable assets to inject more visibility into the supply chain. They print barcode labels used for inventory and asset management. They also print shipping labels that improve traceability and accountability as packages leave warehouses and get sent to customers. They also print ID cards, access cards, and other tangible items that are needed in a modern workplace to make workflows more efficient. 

Top Security Risks Posed By Your Printers

Printers pose a unique challenge for businesses because there are so many different types of devices and various permitted access points for them. For example, you might have office printers, wireless printers on a mobile cart, or printers accessed by people working from home. And printed materials could contain confidential or sensitive information as well. Here are some of the top security risks posed by your printers. 

1. Print Job Manipulation

Unauthorized users or hackers could hijack print jobs to replace or modify content, interfering with your operational workflows and order fulfillment activities. 

2. Data Breach

230110-are-your-printers-vulnerable-2Intruders could intercept print jobs or access sensitive data that they can otherwise misuse for theft. It’s also possible that sensitive data can be stolen from a printer’s memory. 

3. Printer as a Gateway

Once a printer has been compromised, a cybercriminal can use it as an access point to attack other parts of your network. They can then begin stealing data or interfering with your operations. 

4. Wireless Printing

Jobs that print wirelessly or via the cloud may be exposed to public infrastructure. If not secured properly, these channels can open up your systems to exploitation. 

5. Physical Breaches

A lack of internal controls can result in sensitive data being exposed to unauthorized or inappropriate audiences in the workplace. 

How to Protect Your Printers from Cyberattacks

The answer to printer cybersecurity risks isn’t to stop using connected printers. In fact, connected devices like RFID tags, wireless printers, and wearables are making work more efficient, particularly in warehousing and logistics. But businesses do need to consider security concerns by first recognizing that connected printers have potential vulnerabilities. Here are some of the ways your business can protect its printers from potential cyberattacks and data breaches. 

1. Use Secure Connections

Every network connection you have in your workplace should be secure. And your printers should only accept connections from trusted secure networks. 

2. Keep Your Printers Updated

Similar to computers, printers require updates to keep them protected from the latest types of cyberattacks. Make sure you set your device for auto-updates or schedule a time to do this regularly. 

3. Employ Security Features

Depending on the manufacturer of a particular printer, there may be some security features available to protect access to the device. If there are, make sure you are using them. 

4. Enable Two-Factor Authentication

230110-are-your-printers-vulnerable-3Many programs, websites, and applications that your business uses probably have the option for two-factor authentication to gain access. It can be a bit of a pain, which is why many people opt out. But requiring users to verify their identity from another device can provide the extra protection you need for your network. 

5. Change Passwords Regularly

Keeping the same or similar passwords too longer leaves your system vulnerable to attack. Change your network and printer passwords regularly, at least every few months, and avoid using any passwords that are common terms or repeats. 

6. Educate Your Staff

There’s a good chance you have a lot of staff using printers for different reasons. In most cases, they’re probably doing what they should be to get the job done. But it’s time to educate your workers on printer security risks and safety practices. If you can implement some best practices, you can reduce many points of vulnerability. 

7. Print from a Separate Network

If you believe your systems are particularly vulnerable, you may wish to print from a separate network. This is an extra step that can prevent hackers from accessing your main network by using your printer. A hacker could still get into your printer, but they wouldn’t get much further. 

8. Upgrade Your Equipment

Older printers are going to be more vulnerable to attacks, primarily because they will eventually stop being compatible with various security measures and updates. If you can longer keep your device secured, it becomes too much of a risk, and it’s time to get something more modern. 

Understanding the vulnerabilities posed by your organization’s printers is vital to improving your printer security and protecting your business. Even if your employees never leave confidential, printed documents lying around, that data can be exposed for outsiders to access it. That’s why using the proper printer security equipment, and protocols are essential to your business success and brand reputation. 

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Topics: RFID, Cybersecurity, Printer

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