The Risks of Unsecured Printers

Printer security is a significant concern, whether you’re an individual with a single multifunction printer or a large corporation with a fleet of printers. Overlooking proper security measures can lead to substantial consequences. While many may only think of wasted resources like ink and paper as the main issue, inadequate printer security poses far more serious risks, potentially resulting in damaging data breaches.

Increased Supply and Maintenance Costs

Leaving a wireless printer unprotected poses a major security risk as it can lead to unauthorized usage. Failing to encrypt print jobs in transit from your network to the printer could grant a skilled cybercriminal unrestricted access to its operations. In such a scenario, a hacker could disrupt the system with fake print jobs and alter internal settings, causing disruptions and financial losses. This was demonstrated in an incident where a hacker engaged in “mass printer trolling,” according to a recent report by Fortune. Unfortunately, this is just the beginning in terms of printer security vulnerabilities.

Accessing Confidential Information Without Authorization

Because many multifunction printers can store printed data electronically, overlooking stringent security measures opens the door to a range of threats. Print jobs saved in the printer’s memory could enable hackers to access sensitive personal or business data, including Social Security numbers, financial details, or internal documents that rivals could exploit. The public exposure of stolen documents can also severely damage a company’s reputation.

To counter this, it’s crucial to regularly delete saved print jobs from the device’s memory and opt for a printer with an encrypted internal hard drive.

Concerns about Network Vulnerabilities

Unsecured wireless printers can render an entire network vulnerable. A single unprotected printer could serve as an unnoticed “back door” for malicious attacks on your network of connected devices. Neglecting security on a wireless printer could allow cybercriminals to surveil your networked devices, potentially compromising the security of your entire network by creating a pathway to connected computers.

Taking the Appropriate Steps

Several steps can be taken to mitigate the aforementioned risks associated with printer security. Start by ensuring that your wireless network-connected printers have up-to-date security features. If they don’t, consider replacing them with newer models designed to address various risks posed by hackers, as well as unintentional risks due to human error.

Always keep your firmware updated, which involves installing recommended drivers and patches from the printer manufacturer. Register your printer with the manufacturer to stay informed about updates. Enable automatic updates if your printer offers this feature to promptly address security vulnerabilities.

For printers with adequate security features, make full use of included safeguards like access passwords or PINs to restrict unauthorized access.

Use encrypted connections when sending print jobs. Additional recommendations include renaming your wireless network, changing passwords regularly, and opting for printers with encrypted hard drives.

Finally, the most effective way to protect against printer-related hacking is to establish a direct, wired connection from your computer. While this may not be feasible in a business setting with numerous workstations and printers, it can be a practical solution for home offices. If you manage a workplace with multiple employees using printers, educate them about printer security and enforce these measures similar to other workplace security protocols.

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