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How to Make Your Printers More Secure

04/14/2022
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You probably don't think about printer security nearly as much as you do about the security of your desktop computer. While that is understandable, the fact is that printers, copiers and multifunctional devices are functional computers and need to be secured every bit as much as your PCs.  

Given that your printer often has a hard drive, operating system and memory- just like your PC- it could be a security threat. The truth is that printer security - like all security in a company - is something to analyze routinely, to adjust for new threats and vulnerabilities and to tweak on a consistent basis. 

Here is what you need to know about making printer security a piece of your broader cybersecurity strategy.  

THE LOW HANGING FRUIT 

If your office printer requires user login or is connected to your network security monitoring, you may think printers are secure. But those security measures only address direct access to the device and ignore more subtle, backdoor threats.  

Printer security has become an even higher priority than previously thought as companies have done a good job of plugging holes in other areas, such as mobile and Wi-Fi access. Hackers have now turned to some alternative methods of breaking into a company and stealing documentation, passwords, files and images that compromise intellectual property. 

WHAT ARE YOUR PRINTERS DOING? 

The first challenge is to take stock of your printer fleet and to address the ways it may be compromised.  

To begin, do you have an inventory of your copiers and printers?  Do you have location mapping or a simple spreadsheet showing you where they are located and what type of device they are?  To get control of your printers and copiers, it is vital to have this information available.  

Once you have once you have an inventory, look at how those devices are configured. Do you have optimized device settings or standard, factory settings in place?  If you don’t know the answer, here are some things you can do (or bring in a print service partner to help). 

First, create a spreadsheet to track your fleet and include things like IP Address, location, firmware version and security settings important to your network policies. Consider how various printers are connected to your network and which security features are in place to prevent breaches. Your IT team or a managed print service provider can:  

  • Identify aging models that need replacement to support the latest security protocols.  
  • Take advantage of fleet monitoring tools to protect your printers from network intrusions. 
  • Update factory-set printer passwords. 
  • Enforce user authentication (badge or PIN number) to release documents at the printer. 
  • Enable stored data protection and/or encryption on devices (if available).  
  • Enable your printer or multifunction device to overwrite print jobs or scanned documents once a job is finished. 

Lastly, if you have staff using the scan to email function, audit the email account used for accounts and authorized users. Then ask yourself what are they and sending and who are they sending these scans to. This is commonly overlooked and IT staff might assume that employees are taking document security into account when using scan to email. But are those people active employees who need to have this access? Are they using secure, company email accounts? If not, a personal email account could be hijacked and used to compromise your systems.   

We understand that most printers are quietly working away in the corner of your office, and don’t scream ‘security risk.’ But given that modern printers share some of the same security risks as your phone or computer as your phone or laptop, it’s a good idea to take a second look.  

If you would like guidance on what security measures you can implement to protect your offices, reach out to us today for a free assessment. 

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