No point in guessing the significance of printers in today’s digital age. It’s one of the mandatory business or office equipment with uncountable uses. From advertisements and flyers to business receipts and reports, your office needs a printer for many needs.
However, despite the obvious relevance of printing devices in offices or businesses, printer security is an overlooked aspect of cybersecurity. None of the offices pays attention to print security just the way to do it for computers, laptops, and software solutions with encryption, antiviruses, and firewalls.
As long as you keep neglecting the security of printers, your company’s valuable data remains vulnerable to a range of security breaches.
Printer security is necessary as modern multifunctional devices store the data to support functions like scanning, transferring, and conversion of documents to other formats. These printers pose security threats for businesses in several ways such as cloud printing and unauthorised access.
To prevent any such threats, we thought to bring this practical guide for you. Here, we will help you understand the importance of print security and provide practical tips and solutions for securing your printers from all sorts of vulnerabilities.
Take a read till the end!
What Is Printer Security?
The printers, usually called copiers have advanced in leaps and bounds. Today, they are multifunction devices (MFD) that no longer just print. They perform a range of functions such as copying, scanning, scan-to-print, cloud printing, document storage and email.
These MFDs typically have an operating system, flash memory or hard drive, and network connectivity including Wi-Fi. Since there is a long list of functions that MFDs perform, remember that many of these functions make your data or information prone to security risks! That’s why printer security is a key aspect to focus on when you are using multifunction devices or printers.
Considering all the potential risks involved in using MFDs such as unauthorised access and information loss or data breaches, printer security becomes a vital consideration for every business or workspace! It refers to the measures and practices that they need to apply for protecting the data processed by the MFDs. The practices also safeguard the devices and network connections they use for their operations.
Print security features comprise a several security aspects including access control, data protection, secure printing, auditing, and user awareness. Being network-connected devices, MFDs are also vulnerable to network threats that can affect the integrity and confidentiality of the data.
All in all, security of printers is a demanding concern in your office that will ensure your vital data are safe from miscellaneous printer security risks in this data-oriented and interconnected world.
The Importance Of Printer Security
Earlier, endpoint security in business simply meant putting strong passwords on computers, updating the antivirus or using firewalls in the network system. Securing the endpoint meant that the entire flow was safe.
However, that is not the case in recent times. Endpoint security which also entails printer security has become complex due to the evolution of powerful threats.
SMEs (Small and medium enterprises) are the target point of cyber attackers, rightly because they lack sufficient infrastructure and support to ensure their printers’ security. Many reported print-related losses due to weak cybersecurity strategies in their business after they switched to multifunction devices that are integrated into their network.
That’s why people started emphasising on printing security to prevent access for cybercriminals to the data printed, stored and transferred through their printers. While they made sure to buy MFDs embedded with high-end security features, they also made sure to deploy the best practices for averting or tackling any kind of printer security risks.
When the most relevant printer security best practices are effectively implemented, SMEs experienced will get the following benefits.
1. Improvement in operational efficiency
By minimising their exposure to different types of vulnerabilities, you can enhance the operational efficiency of your business. You are no longer required to worry about any internal threats and wait for a dependable person to print copies or perform a function on the printers.
All employees are allowed to access the printers while maintaining the protocols and policies of security strategy that ensures your devices and the data are safe.
2. Minimize malware exposure
Since printers are connected to computers or laptops through the office network, it makes them vulnerable to malware. The malware moves to the connected computers or laptops as it is easier for them in that way to channel its attack to other devices in the network.
That’s why ensuring printer security will make your business data guarded by taking away any opportunity for malware to get through the network.
3. Keeps resources available
When proper security strategies are in place, employees in your office are allowed to access the printers for essential operations. The strategies include printer tracking and monitoring, two-factor user authentication, etc.
which ensure that no employees can use the printers for their taking copies of personal documents or freely access any business stuff. Thus, your printers experience no unnecessary use or downtime that results from unsecured printers.
4. Make use of advanced tools
Since offices or businesses are switching to multifunction devices or MFDs for ensuring the security of their data, it is providing them with opportunities to make use of advanced tools or features such as cloud printing, mobile access, secured communication protocols, etc. which further eased their tasks and further contributed to performance improvement.
11 Best Practices to Avoid Printer Security Breach
Given the rising number of risks, it is too imprudent of you to overlook the printer’s security features while buying the device.
Unfortunately, without any security features integrated into your office printers, you are making your business data susceptible to numerous threats from malicious third parties, DOS (Denial of service) attacks, unauthorised access, and exploitation of data.
The best way to assure your printer security is to consistently follow the prevalent practices and make the best use of its integrated security features. We suggest here some of the most effective practices for you that have well-secured data in businesses and offices.
1. Deploy a proper print management strategy
Devise a realistic print management strategy for your organisation or office. With the help of reliable managed print services, it is easier to craft strategies fruitful for your business. It undeniably plays a vital role when there are hundreds of employees in a co-working space who are accessing the printers according to their convenience.
Define a clear strategy that will include basic rules and regulations regarding printers’ access, use, and control. You can also include a training program into the strategy through which you will teach the employees how to safely use the printers, on-site as well as remotely.
Any ideal printer strategy of a corporate office includes policies, processes, and regulations governing how to use the printers and related resources judiciously and cautiously while ensuring the protection of the data.
2. Get the fundamentals of security set
Most of the network printers including MFDS need to be accessed with a password since anyone can operate them remotely.
So, the first and most basic measure to safeguard for your printers is to reset the default password when you install the printer. Try to make it as complicated as possible by putting unexpected characters and numbers that are difficult to crack!
Also, you should keep the firmware of the printer updated. The manufacturers keep sending firmware updates as threats keep on evolving now and then.
Thus, to secure your printer, make sure that you follow every notification on firmware updates and follow them. If it becomes difficult to keep track of the latest firmware updates, set monthly reminders and run all updates at once to add layers of protection.
3. Place your printers in a secured place or room
In co-working spaces, it is hard to predict if anyone intends to steal or manipulate the data that are transferred, stored, or printed through the devices. Thus, one of the prime printer security best practices is to keep the devices in a separate and secured room.
It is recommended to keep surveillance cameras or a security person in the printing room to keep a check on the users and prevent any authorised persons to access the devices. If your business deals with extremely confidential data, then it is advised to keep the door of the printing room locked, providing keys only to the authorised persons.
4. Implement stricter user access controls
In an office space where printers are common devices used by employees but not everyone needs to use the printers. Also, the printers do not need access to the network all the time.
Therefore, it is essential to put stricter user access controls to limit its use only by the concerned employees and allow printer security permissions to the network only when required. We recommend you adjust the user permissions and set the printing preferences only to limited exposure to the network.
Along with that, you can also set the printer settings to a mode which automatically shuts down the device during off-hours or when there is no network connectivity.
Two-factor authentication is another relevant print security measure that helps upgrade the security of printers. It is effective when there are multiple users. Under the system of two-factor authentication, the users are required to put a personalized pin on the connected computer device and then can use it for printing.
5. Monitor and assess the printers in your place
Most offices and business spaces have several printers. But, is it necessary to connect all the printers needed to the common network?
When a printer is unnecessarily connected to a network and if it is not secured with proper security settings, it exposes the network and other connected devices to printer security threats. It is like having all the front doors of your house locked but keeping one of the back doors open. Therefore, make sure to unplug all the unnecessary printers connected to the network.
When there are no vulnerable devices in your network, hackers can no way affect the printers or data, whether it is wireless or works with a physical connection.
6. Update your printer’s software from time to time
The MFDs or modern printers have firmware that helps them to function smoothly but that is not enough when the printers store, print, scan, and exchange sensitive information. As a result, one of the most crucial security practices for preventing vulnerabilities is the integration of malware or antivirus software into the system.
You cannot install just malware or antiviruses that are available in the market but consult with experts who manufacture or upgrade printers and other essential business equipment. Being expert manufacturers of multifunctional devices, we can evaluate what security features a printer possess and what updates it needs for securing the data.
We also help offices or businesses to know the security patches or version updates that they should keep an eye on and get installed once released. This is necessary since the prime cause of data breaches in modern devices is running outdated software that becomes non-effective for new threats.
7. Don’t allow the printer to store its print history
This is the most simple security practice that you should consistently follow to ensure that your data is never exposed to misuse or breaches.
This has become a necessity after the popularity of MFDs which have the functionality of storing print histories. While this is greatly useful for reviewing print materials, reprinting or making multiple copies of important documents faster, it makes the printers an easy target for intruders.
For this obvious reason, we recommend never keep printing histories on your MFDs and adjust their settings keeping that in mind. However, for devices which have strictly controlled access, for say, the printer used in the CEO’s or director’s room, you can keep the histories for essential purposes.
8. Enable user passwords for shared printer
Apart from all the necessary settings and controls in the network, you also need physical security settings for your MFDs.
It is necessary to use passcodes for the shared printers which do not let anyone with access to the devices to print a document. Users should be a given unique passcode that lets them release a document only after entering the passcode.
This prevents your sensitive documents from being taken away by any irrelevant person in the office. Also, there could be instances when an employee has printed sensitive documents but somehow forgotten to release the documents. Passcodes prevent anyone from releasing documents and getting them into the wrong hands.
You are printing, sharing, and storing a lot of sensitive information on the printers including employees’ details, confidential company information, receipts, and customer invoices. So, an unencrypted network compromises the security of all these data and makes your business data vulnerable.
Also, you should use encryption for the printing jobs in an unencrypted network. It converts your information into incomprehensible code, which makes it impossible for hackers to decipher.
Another major print security practice to remember when your devices retire is to wipe the drive! This is especially required when the devices are taken from the leasing agent. If confidential information is found later on the devices, it can result in significant costs due to data violation. Even if you are disposing of the printers at a thrift store or electronic waste recycling agency, make sure that all the hard drives are properly erased.
9. Make sure to track and monitor your printer activities
For organisations or businesses that deal with vital information, constantly tracking and monitoring the devices’ activities is one of the failsafe printer security practices. There are several software applications that let the owners of the devices track and monitor their devices. They allow owners to track who is printing, what is printing, and when on a connected mobile, laptop or computer.
Needless to say, it ensures maximum security of your MFDs by ensuring the owners have complete control of their printing jobs and other activities. This enables you to closely monitor your MFDs, especially when more sensitive information is exchanged, stored, or printed!
The software will enable you to easily detect any suspicious activities on the printers before it could do any harm to your organization’s confidentiality or integrity.
10. Choose to buy only secure printers or MFDs
With a plethora of companies in the market that are providing printers, we recommend you buy printers from a pioneering office equipment provider that offers the latest models.
Many advanced printers or MFDs have high-end security features and offer unique technologies that help to thwart thefts or attacks and automatically secure the printing job. Many of them even have a feature that reboots the device whenever an attack or unexpected activity is sensed.
11. Know your attack vectors
Office printers are usually meant to be used, accessed, and controlled by the employees within the office setup. However, there are instances, when the printers are accessed outside the office by the company’s personnel or by any related associates or business partners.
Sometimes, the vendors also may need access to your printer to print their requirements or to send you receipts. Partners may need the access to exchange crucial information or for maintenance purposes!
So, you need to identify such chances of information thefts or breaches due to access to the MFDs by agents outside the office. Monitor and track their printing activities to make sure that they access only the required data and print them.
Most Common Printer Security Threats You Should Be Aware Of
In today’s interconnected business environment, security threats are a great concern and make business data susceptible to theft or manipulation. If you aren’t able to mitigate the threats, it means you are compromising the integrity and confidentiality of your business.
To implement a printer security strategy and take appropriate measures for safeguarding your data security, you need to first learn about the threats or risks that are prevalent today! Here are they-
1. Document theft
It is the most common security threat to multifunctional printers as they have built-in memory for storing data. They store the personal data of employees, business records, and vital information that are either printed or sent through it. Any intruder can intentionally access sensitive information and destroy or misuse them.
2. Email attacks
We evaluated many models of MFDs to find that they are vulnerable to email hacking. If anyone clicks on the link in a suspected email, it will send a code to the printer which is connected to the same network. Thus, it is easier for hackers to steal any confidential information that is printed or sent through the devices!
Hackers always target network-connected devices and printers are their easiest target. They can target the unsecured data stored on the printer’s hard drive as well as intruding on the company’s network to which the printer is connected.
4. Tampering with printer settings
Any person with dubious intentions can tamper with the printer security settings to make the document or data exposed to security risks or threats. Some of the threats include changing the printer’s saving job to some other area, rerouting jobs, and factory resetting the device that deletes its custom security settings.
5. Unencrypted data transmissions
Most of the print jobs are unencrypted to network printers because they rarely leave their assigned network. However, hackers access the unencrypted data sent to the printers to use them for fraudulent purposes.
6. Default passwords and usernames
Setting the default password and username in your printers allows anyone in your business to use the printers. It results in unauthorised access to your printers which will certainly make your data vulnerable to theft or misuse. Anyone can access and print documents that are someone else’s.
7. Unsecured Wi-Fi connections
Wireless printing that is supported by the Wi-Fi connectivity of modern printers also exposes the printers to severe security threats. When there’s Wi-Fi, an attacker can connect the printer to any malicious networks, implement code, and launch a proximity attack without even having direct access to your network.
8. Outdated software and firmware
Having printers with outdated software and firmware makes the devices as well as your network susceptible to many threats such as DOS (Denial of Service) attacks, malware, etc.
Printer companies issue security patches and software updates that are capable of addressing the latest risks or vulnerabilities that evolve with time.
9. Physical security vulnerabilities
The print security strategy also involves putting physical restrictions so that any unauthorized person cannot access the printers. Without physical security, your office printers will be exposed to several physical threats such as replacing the content with other’s content, deleting the content, inserting irrelevant content in the print jobs, and wiping content from the hard drives. All these result in massive destruction or loss of your data.
10. Unencrypted password results in printer hacking
Printer hacking via the internet is a highly destructive threat which can easily happen when your printer’s password is not encrypted when it is exchanged between the computer and printer. So, someone with malicious intent can cause a DOS attack, upload viruses or malware, and send infected files.
All these prevalent printer security issues are making corporates and businesses aware of who now seek to follow practices and measures to prevent tampering or breach of their data.
7 Must-Have Printer Security Features For Your Devices
Small to large organizations are now realizing the significance of printer security practices after experiencing or learning about major threats or data breaches. While devising a strategy is important to have a secure print environment, make sure to buy printers that have best-in-class security features.
Here we have discussed the key features that your printers should have to protect your business from all sorts of vulnerabilities.
1. User authentication and authorisation
These are basic security functions that every modern printer or MFD must include. User authentication allows the employees to access the printers and use the devices after verifying their identity.
They either have to put their respective login ID or have to show their ID card, in case there is physical security i.e., a security guard or lock in the printing room.
On the other hand, the user authorization feature restricts the functions of the printers based on the users. In many devices, this feature is further strengthened by the account lockout function that temporarily prevents anyone from using the printer after several incorrect logins.
2. Follow-me or pull printing function
This is a highly effective feature that is facilitated by the user authentication function that helps to keep all the documents or copies safe and confidential.
The pull printing or follow me features let the users to release the copies from the printer only after they are verified themselves via login or employee ID. Not only that but this feature is also enhanced to erase the printing job once the document is released.
Needless to say, this prevents any of the sensitive business documents to be left in the print trays, leaving them to be picked by unauthorised members with deceitful intent. It, thereby, helps you to maintain the confidentiality of your documents.
3. Network access restrictions
This feature is necessary for your office MFDs for protecting them against any random or unauthorised access. It restricts the MFD’s communication to only a limited number of IP addresses.
This simply means only the devices which are pre-authorised are able to interact or communicate with the printer. This certainly helps prevent malevolent attackers from trying to invade your network through any of the connected devices.
Network access restrictions are perhaps one of the integral printer security features that you should ensure while buying if you want to prevent tapping or tampering with your data.
4. Secure communication protocols
When your printers have connectivity to both the internet and a network, it exposes them to vulnerable attacks, called MiTM (Man-in-the-Middle) attacks.
This type of attack happens when any person with a fraudulent purpose intrude secretly into your connection to intercept the data that are transferred between the two devices. Technically, this means a hacker can easily read and tap every document that the director sends to anyone through the printer.
5. Network monitoring
Modern printers are connected to several devices on a shared network and that’s the main reason hackers could intervene and breach your data. MFDs are hence integrated with network monitoring software that prevents attackers to encroach on your data by implementing a gateway between the incoming and outgoing traffic of the printers.
It also continuously monitors the activities of the devices to identify probable threats or any dubious activities by any unauthorised persons, and immediately alerts the owners. The software is even capable of detecting any malware and blocking them at the firewall.
6. Stored data protection
Today’s advanced printers store data temporarily after the printing job is done. While many users are unaware of this, they forget to clear the printing history or stored data after use, making them vulnerable to leakage, losses, or misuses.
To prevent any misuse of data, the printers have a function that allows encryption of the data. So, even if a hacker tries to steal confidential or sensitive information from the devices, they cannot read or interpret it.
7. Data overwrite function
After the completion of a printing job, one might think that the last document is deleted. However, that does not happen automatically in the new-age printers, even if you have pressed ‘delete’ after the job.
The document remains on the drive until it is overwritten. The data can be easily retrieved by a person who knows the core technicalities of the printers.
For this reason, you need printers for your office that have data overwrite functions as one of their security features. This feature ensures that your data is fully erased by overwriting with dummy data. It hence prevents your actual data from being retrieved by any other person or third party.
5 Steps To Secure Your Printers
While getting printers with high-end security features is the first step to ensuring the security of your printers, you also need to follow these five essential steps to secure your devices.
Step 1: Limit network printing
Having an unsecured printer in your company’s network will make every other device vulnerable to threats. Thus, the first step is to review and configure the printing setting so that it restricts printing anything over the internet.
By properly configuring your printer’s settings, you can allow printing only after the commands that are made within your network router!
Step 2: Secure the printing ports
When your ports are not secured, they become easy avenues for malicious persons to access your devices. That’s why make sure to enable those printing protocols that you and your employees need to use. You can find the information on how to set and disable ports in your router manual.
Step 3: Install a firewall
No points in guessing that your printer which works on an operating system needs a firewall. While most printers come with a pre-installed firewall, make sure that you enable it.
The firewall prevents hackers or unauthorised persons from remotely accessing your printer who are outside your company’s network.
Step 4: Update the firmware to the latest version
While manufacturing companies make sure to provide solutions to the common printer security vulnerabilities in their firmware, you need to make sure that you have the latest updated firmware in your devices
Step 5: Change the default password
Lastly, do not forget to change the printer’s default password to a strong passphrase that isn’t easy to crack. Most printers come with the default username and password of the administrator which are too easy to guess for the hackers and gain access. For this reason, make sure to change the default password.
Get Top Printer Security Features In Devices By Munster Business Equipment!
Whether it’s your office or a small business space, printers are the basic equipment that you need. With time, printers went through much advancement to make the tasks of businesses easier!
One of the notable developments is the emergence of multifunction devices (MFDs) that do tasks more than just printing like scanning, transferring, and storing files. However, that exposed the printing devices to multiple security risks which offices should be aware of!
In this guide, we have mentioned common printer security threats that are prevalent in today’s interconnected and data-driven business environment such as unauthorised access, data breaches, and malware attacks. We tried to make you aware of what could happen if your printers do not have enough security features.
Our experts also suggested the high-end security features that you must ensure your printers while buying them such as encryption features, network monitoring, and secure communication protocols.
Needless to say, you need to put extra emphasis on the printing security strategy which was earlier left out of consideration. If you are looking for some advanced multifunction devices with best-in-class security features, get in touch with Munster Business Equipment! We are a pioneering office equipment provider in Ireland with the specialization in multi-functional printers and can supply you with devices with the top-notch security features.
Frequently Asked Questions On Printer Security
1. What are the common printer security risks?
There are many printer security vulnerabilities in recent times due to a shared network and multiple functions supported by the devices.
Hackers can get easy access to your multifunction devices if the network is unencrypted and expose the information stored in it after the previous copies or exchanged through it to breach or privacy thefts. Some of the most prevalent security risks are:
- Access to confidential information
- Target DOS (Denial-of-Service) attacks
- Access to saved authorized documents
- Unauthorised print jobs
2. Do printers have security?
The typical conventional models of printers, also called copiers did not have any security. However, due to rising endpoint cybersecurity threats in the business environment, most of the recent models have built-in security features. Modern printers, also known as network printers and multifunction devices (MFDs) perform functions other than printing such as scanning, email, fax, document storage, file format conversions, and so on.
All these functions along with a shared network made printers vulnerable to threats and made security an essential aspect for the printers.
Some of the requisite security features needed in your printer devices are user authentication and authorization, stored data protection, network access restrictions, and network monitoring
3. Are Wi-Fi printers secure?
No! The wireless printers connected to Wi-Fi are not secure and are potential targets of hackers who can anytime take advantage of your corporate network.
You need to ensure the security of your wireless printer by numerous methods such as advanced encryption standards, strong passwords, and by enabling the Wi-Fi-protected access setting.
4. Do printers store personal information?
Yes, printers store personal information but that entirely depends on their settings and functional capabilities. While some high-grade printers have built-in memory or hard drives where data can be temporarily or permanently stored, some basic models can store limited data temporarily.
This data stored in a printer include print jobs, printer configurations, network settings, user credentials, and even scanned documents.
5. Can a printer get hacked?
Unfortunately, yes! The hacker can access the data stored in the memory of the printers and can also infiltrate or breach the data of other devices that are in the same network. That’s why clearing the printer’s memory after a printing job is necessary for the users for protecting the confidentiality of their data.
6. Can you password-protect Wi-Fi printers?
Yes, it is possible to password-protect your Wi-Fi printers. You can do it using the Wi-Fi Direct feature which lets you connect the device with a phone or computer. Thus, you can set a password and protect the printer with a strong password.
However, the steps to enable Wi-Fi Direct vary with the printers. You need to learn about it from the manufacturer of your printers or by reading the user manual provided with the devices.
7. How to know if a printer has a virus?
The signs of a printer being infected with a virus are quite similar to what happens to computers when they get a virus. The most common signs are not responding to commands, printing without commands, and failure to run security updates.
8. What are the risks of wireless printers?
Wireless printers are at the most risk because they are connected to a network which is usually unsecured. When hackers successfully intrude into a device, it not only makes the sensitive data on the printer vulnerable to theft but also leaves opportunities for them to send malware to other devices in the network to hamper your business.