Is your printer vulnerable to cyberattacks?

Cyberattacks and data breaches have become increasingly common as hackers find new ways to breach company data protections every day. Attacks are usually targeted at email accounts, computers and company networks but a networked printer is a vulnerability that is often underestimated or overlooked.

A number of recent data breaches have demonstrated that printers are just as vulnerable to these attacks, highlighting why security should not be overlooked.


What is a data breach?

A data breach is an unwelcome and unauthorised entry into an organisation’s database, allowing hackers to access sensitive and confidential information such as passwords, banking details and other records.

Data breaches can be extremely disruptive and costly and they can damage the reputation of your business. The increasing connectivity between our devices requires increasing awareness of cybersecurity and how to reduce the risk of data breaches.

Printer data breaches are on the increase

Printers can be an unforeseen vulnerability and a prime entry point for hackers. The end of 2018 saw a rash of cyberattacks mounted by way of networked printers. In one high-profile incident, as reported by Kaspersky, a hacker targeted 50,000 printers and caused them to print a message supporting a YouTuber named PewDiePie. Although not particularly malicious, this attack showed the vulnerability of many printers inside larger corporations and the ease of access hackers have to them.

A 2019 study by Quocirca Global Print Security found that 11% of security incidents reported by organisations over the past year were print-security related. They also found that 59% of those attacks lead to data loss, as well as other impacts, including lost productivity and revenue.

In August of 2020, hijacked nearly 28,000 printers to raise awareness for printer cybersecurity. Throughout their experiment, they managed to identify 800,000+ printers that were able to be targeted by hackers and chose a sample of 50,000 to test, with a success rate on their hack of 56%.

Thankfully, their intentions were not malicious and decided to print the device owners a guide to securing their printers.

5 ways data breaches can happen

1. Unencrypted data and internal storage

Printers have internal hard drives which can store previous print jobs and scanned documents in their queues, which often contain sensitive business information. If data isn’t encrypted, it can be left exposed and accessible if a breach occurs.

2. Unconfigured devices and device settings

It’s not uncommon for a business to neglect the maintenance of software updates for all their devices. These updates come with security patches where previous bugs and vulnerabilities have been identified and addressed. By routinely checking that all settings and controls are secure and up to date, you benefit from the latest protective features from your device manufacturer.

3. Network security

Company networks can be hacked via their printers, particularly older models which often don’t have password protection or security features. Hackers can essentially ‘eavesdrop’ on your network traffic via your printer. Printers also often don’t have anti-malware features to detect, stop and report anomalies.

4. Uncontrolled access

Printers which do not have user authentication enabled are not secure and are left vulnerable. This leaves the printer open for anyone to access sensitive documents. It’s important to understand what access options are available on your printers, so only those that need to access the printer are able to, both physically and remotely.

5. Ghost prints

While you’re less likely to have an external party access your secure data while physically within your office, “ghost prints”, or printed documents and data left behind on a printer with no one claiming it, is still a cause of data breaches. In large offices, shared working spaces and offices with lots of visitors, prints left behind on a printer can be the cause of a data breach if someone decides to take these.

How to reduce the risks of a data breach

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of a data breach happening via your network printer. First, it pays to check for recent updates to your device software. Operating on the most up-to-date version means you’ll have the latest security measures and fixes for previous issues. You should also ensure you have anti-malware installed to protect your network further.

It then pays to check that other necessary security measures are in place, such as ensuring you have secure password protection which is updated regularly, swipe to release functionality and controlled access to your printer network. If your printer is outdated, you may need to consider upgrading to a newer model, which will come with greater security features and support.

Managed print services help you stay protected

Many people may underestimate the benefits of using a managed print services (MPS) provider. Managed print services ensure your devices and security software are updated regularly to keep your business secure and efficient.

An MPS provider helps your businesses set up secure connections between your network and printers, which is one of the main vulnerabilities with older printers. MPS providers also monitor your printer’s activity regularly, keep an eye out for vulnerabilities and provide ongoing security support and advice.

Take a proactive approach to printer security

Printers are an often-overlooked technology when it comes to security measures for a business but they can leave your business vulnerable to opportunist hackers. The good news is there are steps you can take to reduce your vulnerability and the risk of printer-related data breaches by improving your cybersecurity.

If you want to learn more about printer network security and what your options are, contact our team.

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