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How to Protect Your Printers from Hackers

Bill Willoughby
01/12/2021
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All businesses should be aware that hackers are using devices like printers and phones to break into corporate networks. Microsoft recently warned that attackers look to attack printers and devices protected with default passwords or are missing the latest security updates. In fact, last year a Russian hacker group penetrated numerous organizations by first infiltrating unprotected printers and then accessing sensitive information.

The good news is that most printer manufacturers today make business-class machines with security features installed to protect your networks and to prevent any unauthorized access of your printers. Security settings can be configured by your IT manager or Managed Print Service (MPS) provider to ensure only authorized users are accessing your printers. Here are just some of the security features found in enterprise-class printers, copiers and multifunction devices that can be enabled to ensure your systems are protected.

A Digital Lockbox

Some manufacturers have installed specialized hardware to protect against intruders. For example, the Canon Trusted Platform Module (TPM) is a security chip embedded in all imageRUNNER ADVANCE models for data security. TPM generates secure cryptographic keys to encrypt and decrypt confidential information such as passwords stored in the device. This prevents leakage of confidential information, since the encryption key to retrieve data on the hard drive is stored and controlled in a separate location, protected by the tamper-resistant TPM chip.

Canon imageRUNNER ADVANCE systems have additional standard network security features that, when enabled, can limit network communications to the device and can disable unused ports so that hackers cannot find a backdoor to your computer networks. These systems can even encrypt all communication to and from the device so that your confidential information is never exposed to hackers. Specifically, the Encrypted Secure Print option uses 256-bit encryption to provide secure transfer of print data to the device. Even if a hacker does penetrate your network, your printer traffic will be secure.

Get the Updates

As mentioned above, hackers look for devices connected to a network that have not been updated with the latest security updates and software patches. To ensure your devices are not exposed, Ricoh’s Always Current Technology platform ensures you will have new features, applications and upgrades installed directly to your device as they become available. (GFC also provides automated updates for all devices we manage from our Technology and Logistics Center (TLC).)

For an additional level of security, some devices now have Security Information Event Management (SIEM) integration, which makes it easier for enterprises to include printers in their existing security monitoring systems. In addition to SIEM integration, Canon, Lexmark and Ricoh printers have features that will alert users if the device detects unauthorized changes to the device’s software. This means that a hacker cannot install malware or change code on your machines to get access to your network.

Confidential Printing Modes

Of course, hacking a network is only one way your confidential information can be compromised. Many modern multifunction printers now come with special modes that can be enabled to protect your printed pages from prying eyes. For example, if you are printing sensitive information on a shared Ricoh printer, you can use the Locked Job option to prevent the document from being released until you’re standing in front of the printer. A password will be required to allow the print job to complete, ensuring that nobody else picks your document up off the printer by mistake. A managed service provider can enable this feature, or even install a swipe-to-release function so that print jobs are only printed when the appropriate person swipes their ID badge or uses a PIN number to release the job.

These are just some of the advanced security tools available in today’s business-class printers and multifunction devices. In today’s threat environment, these options ensure that no one can hack into your systems and that you can send documents to printers where they are securely stored. In addition, documents cannot be picked up at the printer by another user, protecting confidential or proprietary information. And with network security and encryption installed, documents stored at the printer are locked down so information cannot be compromised even if the hard drive is stolen.

We recommend that security policy settings should be audited at regular intervals, with notifications set to alert administrators when changes are made. After establishing security settings, an administrator can use device management tools to export them across other devices in the fleet, building consistent security settings system-wide with little time and effort. If you’d like to learn more about enabling advanced security settings for your printer fleet, contact the print experts at the Gordon Flesch Company.

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