How to Tell If Your Printer Is Secure

Most multifunction printers (MFPs) are used in the workplace as networked printers, meaning they are connected to your computer network whether it’s through a wired or wireless connection. This has offered a lot of conveniences when it comes to the printing process. Thanks to networked printers, multiple users can quickly and easily access the printer for various tasks.

But recently, more and more businesses are realizing just how important printer security is – especially with networked printers. Without the right precautions, your printers can present a risk for a data breach or be prone to other forms of malicious attacks. Because just like any other device (e.g. mobile devices, computers) that is brought into your network, printers can be used by cybercriminals as a window of opportunity for nefarious activities.

You may have noticed that whilst talking about printer security, we’ve mentioned “networked printers’ quite a lot. This is because local printers do not have the same susceptibility to hacking as networked printers do. This is why some businesses opt to use local printers for printing their sensitive documents – but this isn’t the only way to ensure printer security and it has its disadvantages. Moreover, hacking isn’t the only danger that a business owner must take precautions against. Dangers can also come from within the organization in the form of information theft.

This article talks about the various dangers that unprotected networked printers face, the repercussions, and how you can make sure that your printers are secure. Let’s get started!

Businessman pointing at a symbol for Internet security

Terminologies to Start With

Printer security is a technical topic – no doubt about it. So to make sure that everything is crystal clear for anyone reading, let’s get a few terminologies out of the way. Please feel free to skip ahead if you are already familiar with these terms:

Local Area Network (LAN)

A local area network is a group of computers and peripheral devices (e.g. printers) that share a common communications line or wireless connection to a server/router/switch, thereby creating a computer network within a limited geographic area.

Office MFPs are typically connected to the LAN somehow but most office MFPs can also act as freestanding copiers. If multiple users are able to print from your MFP from different workstations, then that means the MFP is connected through a wired or wireless connection to your LAN.

Local Printers vs. Networked Printers

A local printer is one that is connected directly to a single computer via a USB cable. Some businesses use this kind of printer to ensure the safety of printing sensitive documents – because local printers don’t have the same susceptibility of networked printers to getting hacked from the outside. But this method of printer security is archaic, inefficient, and can be costly to maintain. Moreover, most local printers cannot protect against document theft that can happen from within the organization.

Meanwhile, networked printers, (a category which office MFPs fall under,) are part of a network of computers or LAN. This means computers within the network can access the printer/s that are also within the network. Though networked MFPs seem vulnerable to various attacks, various security solutions are also accessible for these intelligent devices – some security measures are even built-in and continually improved through software/firmware updates from the manufacturer.

Understanding the Dangers of Unsecured Network Printers

Hacker Attack Methods

Without security measures in place, networked printers are prone to hacking. But what can hackers really do aside from forcing your printer to spew out spammy, dubious, unwanted content? Hacking incidents like this are annoying and has happened quite a lot – but there are actually worse things a hacker can do. Some attack methods could lead to a data breach or even damage to your printer. Through an unsecured network, hackers can…

  • Reset the printer/s to their factory defaults so that the machine’s protection settings can be bypassed
  • Access the network by obtaining printer passwords and passwords used for communication protocols
  • Tamper with print jobs
  • Capture confidential data being transmitted on the network
  • View saved copies of previously printed/copied/scanned/faxed documents
  • Physically destroy the printer
  • Launch a DOS (Denial of Service) attack
  • Upload malware or install ransomware

Theft of Documents/Information

Danger doesn’t always come from outside hacking – it can also be from within the organization. One of the most obvious threats to print security is document theft. This is when unauthorized individuals pick up confidential documents that are forgotten at the printer tray.

Another less common (but still possible) scenario is when a disgruntled employee steals the stored information in the printer by physically unplugging the internal storage or transferring the files onto another drive.

Unauthorized employee reading a document left on the printer

Is Your Network Printer Secure?

Now that we have covered the risks that insufficient printer security poses, let’s talk about how you can tell or how you can ensure that your printer is secure.

1. You have changed the printer’s default administrator login credentials

First and foremost, default credentials should be changed to reduce the chances of unauthorized access.

2. You have Pull Printing or FollowMe Printing in Place

Having Pull Printing or FollowMe Printing in place will mean that printed documents are only released after users have authenticated themselves using a swipe card or password. This ensures that they are the right user to release the print job and that they are physically near the printer. This solution reduces the chances of unauthorized printing and the chances of sensitive documents being forgotten on the tray where they’re susceptible to theft and unauthorized viewing.

3. You have user authentication or account tracking in place

These settings allow you to regulate who can print from the MFP. Furthermore, these tools can be effective in investigating the illegal usage of the workplace printer.

4. You have encryption for your network and for your device

Encryption methods such as SSL/TLS, IPsec, and the like can help secure your network when sending print data. As for device encryption, most MFPs have this as a built-in feature.

5. You keep the printer’s firmware and drivers updated

As printer manufacturers release firmware and software updates, it is important to install them as soon as possible. These updates will oftentimes add new and improved security features and patches to your device.

6. You make sure to periodically erase data from your printer’s hard drive

Most printers have an internal drive that stores information on anything that has been printed, copied, scanned, and faxed using that device. Special precautions must be taken to ensure that this information does not end up where it’s not meant to be – and this includes periodically erasing data from your printer’s hard drive. This may especially be needed if you are disposing of an old printer or having the printer undergo maintenance.

7. You have had your printer security audited

If you want to take your printer security to the next level, then you may consider bringing in expert help. Through a print security audit service, you can make sure that your business is protected from nefarious parties and organizational inefficiencies.

Improve Your Printer Security Today

Integr8 provides the most comprehensive print security audit service in the United States and Canada. The process starts with a complete analysis of your current setup and processes. From here we can spot any security weak links – as well as inefficiencies in the workflow – and present the best solutions that are tailor-fit for your business. In just a few clicks you can fortify your business from dangers like cyberattacks and document theft.

Contact us today!

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