Networked printers are often an easy way to improve office productivity and streamline document management. But when introducing these intelligent devices, business owners and managers often fail to consider the security risk printers can represent.
More sophisticated devices, like laptops and servers, often get more scrutiny and attention from security experts. However, printers can serve as easy entry points for bad actors, introducing vulnerabilities into organizations’ networks and undermining the effectiveness of their security strategies.
Over the last two years, over two-thirds of businesses experienced a print-related data loss, according to research from Quocirca. Learn how your business can prioritize and maintain print security in its long-term risk management strategy.
Remote workforces: A new frontier for cyber security teams
Over the last decade, remote work has risen by over 400%, and that trend has only accelerated with the pandemic. Distributed workforces have placed new (and sudden) demands on organizations’ cyber security infrastructure, pressuring IT teams to find workable solutions that keep everyone connected while preventing security breaches.
Now, with hybrid workforces split across office and work-from-home arrangements, businesses have needed to implement flexible networks. Employees need to be able to access business-critical technology when and where they need to. While intelligent printers can provide accessibility and scalability for businesses’ document management needs, they can also exacerbate current network vulnerabilities caused by the rise in remote work.
How print security affects network security
Although smart devices can be convenient, they can also be difficult to protect, especially if they lack the security features and encryption needed to maintain a secure internet connection and transmit sensitive documents safely.
It is imperative for technology leaders, CIOs, and security experts to make sure the printers their businesses purchase:
- Are compatible with their existing infrastructure and security solutions.
- Have sufficient threat and intrusion detection capabilities to alert teams of a data breach.
- Allow teams to set up an effective password policy that safeguards wireless and mobile document transmissions from malware.
- Support user authentication and authorization policies consistent with the overall security strategy.
Why are printers a security risk?
Smart devices like internet-enabled printers are a great tool for hybrid workforces. But often, these intelligent devices often lack either the security features or security measures needed to protect the networks to which they are connected.
Open network ports on these devices make it easy for people to gain unauthorized access. Once someone has used printers as an entry point into your network, they can:
- Capture sensitive data as it’s transmitted.
- Change files as they are being printed.
- Damage the devices’ software remotely.
To demonstrate how widespread these risks are, the CyberNews team identified over 500,000 Internet of Things (IoT) devices that were potentially vulnerable to cyber attack due to unsecured internet connections. After selecting a sample of 50,000 printers, the team was able to make over half (27,944) print a PDF.
Clearly, there are plenty of opportunities for hackers to take advantage of unsecured network connections to gain access to organizations’ IT systems. That’s why it’s important to develop secure print infrastructure and document security measures that fit within a larger cyber security approach.
Tips and best practices to improve your printer security
If your printers aren't currently protected by your existing security procedures and processes, they should be integrated into your security approach as quickly as possible. Printers are often overlooked by otherwise secure businesses, but security experts can help extend your existing security measures to protect these easy entry points into your protected networks.
To improve your print security:
- Manage access and monitor use. Printing should only be available to trusted IP addresses and registered users on a local network. Usage should be monitored closely and access should be limited based on need — that way, if anything is out of the ordinary, you'll know immediately.
- Never hesitate to update. Software updates are a critical part of protecting your printers because they address weaknesses and problems. Create a schedule so that you always know when to check for updates and when to install them to limit workflow interruption. Or integrate automated updates to simplify and scale your printer management.
- Limit who can access print job data and update configurations. Make sure your business uses devices that allow you to control who can access data and update configurations. Setting strict control policies can limit the risk of data exposures in the event of a breach.
- Evaluate when cloud printing is necessary. Cloud and mobile-enabled printing can be convenient but risky. If cloud-supported printing is necessary for your business, set limits on what documents can be rendered via public cloud infrastructure. For your most sensitive documents, set policies that require more secure printing methods.
Need expert support? Standley Systems can audit your printer security
The Standley Systems team is ready to apply our knowledge and expertise to help you better secure your printers and network connections, both for your in-office and work-from-home employees.
We’ll start by assessing your existing security infrastructure and help you implement automated audits, alerts, incident response, and threat remediation to keep your printers secure. Contact us today to learn more.