Your Printer: The Security Weak Spot You Forgot About

In Security by Daniel NewmanLeave a Comment

unsecured printers

A printer seems innocuous most of the time, but last year’s DDoS attack showed us that any connected device could fall prey to hackers. Every business has at least one printer connected to a network, and some have more than that. The printer in the corner could be the security weak spot you haven’t thought about protecting. Printers, scanners, and VoIP phones are leaving us vulnerable at work.

A study by Quocirca, a research and analysis company, stated that over 60 percent of organizations have suffered a print-related data breach. Last March, a hacker sent anti-Semitic flyers to every publicly accessible printer in America. Why aren’t we locking down and protecting our printers? Many printers are as technologically susceptible to viruses and hackers as our computers.

Tips to Beef Up the Security on Your Printer

Since printers can store data and connect to wireless networks, we need to treat their defense like any other device. Protecting your company’s and your employee’s information is vital. Here are some easy steps to take to beef up the security on your printer.

Restrict Access

An easy way for your business to be safe is to only allow employees on the networked printers. Don’t let unauthorized users on your network to print. Don’t allow any undocumented devices to connect to your printer. You should also make sure all wireless printers can’t log in to the network. A wireless printer can open the back door to a security breach to every printer on the network.

If you are in a wireless environment, make sure that everything you send to the printer is encrypted and the SSL you are on is secure. It’s a good idea to use a separate wireless connection that you set up with a name given out to employees for printing use only. Changing the name and password regularly will also protect your printer security.

Printer Security Settings

Although your printer may come with security settings, many are not activated when they arrive at your office. Check the basic security settings on the printer and be sure they are on and working properly.  Be aware though, the basic settings might not be enough to keep hackers from stealing information.

You might even consider sitting down with your IT department to find out what measures are in place, what recommendations they have, and how to implement those recommendations. Be sure your printers are working properly and encrypting everything your employees send to print.

If your printer utilizes PIN numbers, have the employees send their print documents by encryption to the printer. They can manually input the PIN to print. Changing the PIN quarterly or even more often can reduce the risk of a breach.

Firewall Protection

Unfortunately, when companies think of a firewall, they think of how it will protect their computers, but printers need to be put behind that firewall also. It’s true that firewalls can prevent certain technology from speaking to each other, especially printers.

Before disconnecting a printer that isn’t working correctly from the firewall, do some troubleshooting. Make sure your security system software is up to date, keep alerts on, don’t have more than one firewall enabled at a time, and if your firewall has a trusted setting, use this when connected to the printer. If troubleshooting doesn’t work, contact your IT department or the manufacturer of the printer.

Detection Firmware

Detection firmware, such as HP SureStart can stall an attack and repair a device if an attack takes place. Detection firmware, which can come on the computer, works when the computer and printer are turned on by protecting your printer from attack.

Firmware like HP SureStart will validate the integrity of your printer each time it is turned on. If a threat or breach is detected, the device can be restarted using a safe copy of the BIOS, which is a set of boot instructions used to load and start detection firmware on the printer.

It’s important to keep your firmware up to date, and download suggested printer drivers and patches the manufacturer recommends. Register your printer with the manufacturer to be kept up to date on new releases. If the printer comes with automatic updates, turning that feature on ensures the firmware will always be up to date.

Replace Old Printers

Printers are replaced by better and more advanced models all the time. When a new design comes out, check it out to see what security features it has. It’s always better to spend the money on a new printer to protect the privacy of your company than to take a chance on an older printer and risk a security breach.

Is Your Printer the Weak Spot You forgot About?

Many printers store data, are not included in a firewall, and are vulnerable. The suggestions above are easy ways to keep your information and your company safe from hackers and cyber threats. Check into the security of your printers and don’t let them be the backdoor that lets a hacker inside.

This article was brought to you in part by HP, Inc. Opinions and thoughts are those of the author. 


Photo Credit: martinlouis2212 Flickr via Compfight cc

Daniel Newman is the Principal Analyst of Futurum Research and the CEO of Broadsuite Media Group. Living his life at the intersection of people and technology, Daniel works with the world’s largest technology brands exploring Digital Transformation and how it is influencing the enterprise. From Big Data to IoT to Cloud Computing, Newman makes the connections between business, people and tech that are required for companies to benefit most from their technology projects, which leads to his ideas regularly being cited in CIO.Com, CIO Review and hundreds of other sites across the world. A 5x Best Selling Author including his most recent “Building Dragons: Digital Transformation in the Experience Economy,” Daniel is also a Forbes, Entrepreneur and Huffington Post Contributor. MBA and Graduate Adjunct Professor, Daniel Newman is a Chicago Native and his speaking takes him around the world each year as he shares his vision of the role technology will play in our future.

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