Why Printers Are a Continued Security Risk
Printers are a great source of ease and productivity around the office space. Without a printer, a modern office can’t function without some hitches. They are almost indispensable. But what if we told you that the very same printer is a massive risk for your office. It’s not a one-stop risk but a continued security risk.
A 2019 research by the NCC uncovered over 35 vulnerabilities in printers manufactured by leading companies. Other research has shown that at least 63% of large enterprises have suffered a breach at least once due to insecure printing. This shows you how much of a risk your printer poses to your office and any network it is connected to.
This article would point out how printers remain a continued security risk and what you can do to minimize the risk of a printer’s vulnerability.
How Do Printers Pose a Security Threat?
Like we earlier mentioned, there are over 35 exploitable vulnerabilities with your regular everyday printer. But we cannot begin to explore each one of them here. We discuss the major ones that are immediate and can be very deadly.
Just the fact that a printed document can be swiped off the tray is enough reason to be cautious. But there is more. A printer has something similar to the RAM and ROM; it has a temporary memory and a permanent one. The permanent storage holds some data that could be troubling if it falls into the wrong hands. Most times, printers are disposed of or taken for repair with all of that data in the permanent memory. That data could be accessed and copied without your knowledge. It is very easy to copy this data using a computer.
Yes, your printer can be attacked and used to wreak a lot of havoc. First, it can be attacked with a virus and made to print out phony jobs. Secondly, it can be used as a tool in a DDoS attack. The printer can be made to malfunction or even stop working. Just through that printer, every device connected to it can be affected in one way or the other.
This is where it really gets ugly. If a network printer gets hacked, it can lead to a series of unfortunate events. All the devices in the network are automatically at risk. All those devices can be accessed using the same printer. That’s a whole network taken down because of a single printer.
Printers house a lot of information in their memory— important information belonging to clients, documents with very sensitive information can also be easily stolen from the printer’s memory. This can prove detrimental to business and client relationships if sensitive information gets stolen or exposed.
5 Ways to Secure a Printer
In line with the security threat printers pose, these are some major steps that would help secure your printers.
1. Lock down the printer
Charity begins at home. The first place to pay attention to is the security that the printer offers. Most new printers have inbuilt security systems consisting of access control and authentication. This could help in securing the printer to a certain degree. Also, the printer needs physical protection. Try to secure it with locks or smart cards to keep it safe from being stolen by intruders.
2. Use encryption
Printers can be encrypted also. It’s good to encrypt your data when it’s still on your computer. Such data travels securely across the network, only to get to the printer and become vulnerable. Hackers can easily intercept such information at the right point and steal it. The solution is encryption. To do this, you would need Internet Printing Protocol (IPP). It is available on Windows and Linux Distro. With it, you can get encryption and authentication for data as it travels around your printer.
3. Dispose of old printers properly
Remember what we said about the memory of a printer? It holds essential information. So if you want to dispose of an old printer, you must do it properly. All you have to do is wipe the memory of the printer. This can be done with a computer. It is straightforward too. Before you dispose of that old printer, ensure to wipe it thoroughly clean of your important and personal information.
4. Have a proper printer security strategy
Now that it is evident that the printer could be very vulnerable and constitute a risk in the workplace, put a proper security strategy in place. This is done for PC and mobile phones. For a device that has a 63% propensity of being hacked, a security strategy needs to be thoroughly communicated to all members of staff on how they can secure the printer and its data in the workplace.
5. Upgrade firmware
The printer is one of the most ignored devices in the office space. While other devices get updates all the time, the printer is left to itself. Most printer producers release updates to their printer’s firmware. These updates deal with most vulnerabilities that have been discovered in the former version of the printer’s firmware. Updating your firmware can make your printer’s security a little bit stronger.
Repercussions of an Unsecure Printer
As small and as insignificant as printer treats have been treated, they are dangerous. They have the potential to cause a lot of harm to the workspace. Leaving your printer unsecured can lead to very dire repercussions that can gravely affect your business. They include:
1. Tension and fear
Nobody feels good when they discover that they have been hacked. It could breed a lot of fear, tension, and uncertainty within the workplace. The deal is, no one would naturally think they were hacked through a printer. This even makes it more challenging to detect. Not knowing where you were hacked from can breed a lot of unease and distrust in an office environment.
2. Brand damage
Nobody likes to work with a company or organization that has been hacked. They don’t care how the company was hacked or through which device it was hacked. Once a company is hacked, it affects its brand perception among the populace. Imagine losing your reputation over a mere printer. Not cool, right?
3. Loss of clients
Clients can lose confidence in you for many reasons. It could be because their data got stolen by hackers. It could also be because they don’t trust you anymore. Long-term relationships with clients can be brought to an abrupt ending.
4. Loss of hardware
The printer could be damaged in the process. That is an extra cost for the company and the business. Hardware would need to be replaced. That’s some unnecessary expenses that could have been avoided.
The days of treating the printer with little or no care are far from over. The amount of risk and vulnerability that a printer poses to the office space can no longer be taken for granted. Securing the printer is now essential. It is even as important as securing every other device within the office space. Choosing to secure your printer is a wise decision you would not regret taking.