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What 2020 Taught Us About Print Security

Kurt Konicke
05/11/2021
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“This printer has been hacked.” 

Last summer, almost 28,000 printers suddenly printed that ominous message, plus a 5-page guide on printer security. Fortunately for the victims, this is was the work of a group of ethical hackers trying to remind the public about the dangers of leaving printers unprotected.

The group successfully hijacked 27,944 printers out of 50,000 devices that were targeted, or a 56% success rate. If you extrapolate those figures out, that means out of 800,000 internet-connected printers across the world, at least 447,000 are a security risk.

This incident was just the latest reminder from 2020 that printer security is a serious issue. If that’s not enough evidence, the Quocirca Print Security Landscape 2020 found in the past six months two thirds of organizations have experienced data losses due to unsecure printing practices.

According to the same survey, there has been 74% increase in the cost per data breach, up to $1.7 million. Small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are more likely to have suffered a print-related data loss in the past six months (69%), with professional services the most affected sector.

In other words, 2020 showed us that printer security is a real and ongoing threat.

HAVE WE LEARNED NOTHING?

Unfortunately, this is not just a lesson that was learned in 2020. In 2018, the hacker PewDiePie launched a printer attack that was almost identical — with reportedly hundreds of thousands of printers exposed. Two years later, little — if anything — seems to have changed.

But while printers are still a security black hole, it does seem that more businesses at least understand the risk. According to Quocirca’s Print Security Landscape survey, confidence in print security has plunged from 50% to 33% in the U.S. But if you are one of those SMB’s alert to the risk, what do you do to confront this issue?

FINDING SECURITY IN AN INSECURE WORLD

Printers are a security risk because they are essentially a server connected to your network. It has network services, and, in some cases, a hard drive for data storage. Copiers are even more capable and dangerous. In many cases, a copier will store a digital copy of everything it scans, copies or prints on an internal hard drive. These images can be accessed over a network by anyone that can access the machine.  

These capabilities are all important for basic printing, copying and scanning functions, but if left unprotected, can be exploited for nefarious purposes. As with all devices connected to the Internet, printers without appropriate security measures in place can be hacked, infected with malware or be hijacked by denial of service attacks that can debilitate the Internet itself.

While larger companies attract the most attention from national media, small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are also at risk of having their customer data breached. According to the Poneman Institute, nearly half of all cyber-attacks are targeted at small and mid-sized businesses (41 percent). When an SMB is targeted, these criminals are 15 times more likely to succeed as compared to an attempt on a larger organization.

PRINT SECURITY IS POSSIBLE

Now, for the good news. Adoption of print security measures monitored by a managed service partner can lock down a printer fleet. According to the Quocirca survey, overall IT security remains the top investment priority over the next 12 months. In fact, 67% of businesses say IT security is one of their top three investment priorities. Not far behind, 35% of organizations say managed print services (MPS) is one of their top investment priorities. The survey found:

  • The most commonly implemented security measure is a formal procedure for responding to print security incidents (48%).
  • As more workers are remote, 48% of businesses have revised their security policies for home printers.
  • Follow-me printing, where output can only be released to authenticated users, is now employed in 44% of businesses.

If you would like guidance on what security measures you can implement to protect your offices, or need guidance with managing your printer network efficiency, look to a Managed Print Service (MPS) program to help you manage all aspects of your business printing devices. This includes your company’s scanners, faxes and copiers. Reach out to us today for a free assessment.

Managed Print Cost Savings Stat Graphic

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