Should You Update Your Printer’s Firmware? 

Submitted by Karla Metzler on Wed, 09/21/2022 - 09:00
Picture of a secure city with a lock symbol

How important is your office’s security to you? 

If it’s not already a priority, this statistic might move it up a few spots on your list: According to a study conducted by the Ponemon Institute, 68% of organizations have experienced one or more endpoint attacks that successfully compromised data and/or their IT infrastructure.  

Security breaches can come in many forms, but one of the most underlying ways hackers can infiltrate your network is through your printer—yes, your printer---because of their perceived innocuous state.  

There are multiple steps you can take to safeguard against printer cyberattacks, but arguably none are as immediate and effective at preventing a breach than updating your device’s firmware, which is what we will discuss in this blog. 

We’ve been in the printer/copier industry for almost 40 years, and one of the major trends of the last decade or so is the increased prevalence of printer security as an issue of concern for companies that deal with sensitive data. 

Just like a tornado or a hurricane, a printer security breach can come out of nowhere and devastate those that were unprepared for it. We want to inform you of the proactive steps you can take now so you’re not caught off guard later.  

Because once a cyberattack occurs, it is difficult to stop---and the damage could be financially significant.   

The number one step you can take to protect your printers right now is to update your firmware. But what exactly is firmware? Let’s go over that question first before diving into why it’s important to update your firmware, and how to actually do it.  

What Is Firmware? 

Firmware is a hard-coded language that machines need to communicate a process. Firmware is necessary for the machine itself to operate, as it decodes and provides instructions from the computer to the printer.  

Firmware is the first line of defense when it comes to protecting against security breaches, and if you don’t have the latest firmware update on your printer, you are making yourself more vulnerable to a printer cyberattack.     

To put firmware into context, think about your smartphone. The phone itself and its accompanying applications require frequent updates to fix technical issues or add additional features that will heighten its productivity.  

Firmware updates for your printer work in the same way, and it is precisely why they are so important to install on your device: 

4 Reasons Why It’s Important to Keep Your Firmware Updated 

There are many things firmware updates can do for your device, but here are the four main reasons why it’s important to have the latest firmware update for your printer:  

  1. Gives You the Latest Printer Security Features 

As mentioned previously, one of the major advantages of having the latest firmware update for your printer is it gives you the newest security features that will further enhance your device’s security mechanisms. 

For example, Xerox (who we partner with) has multiple security features like McAfee’s Whitelisting Technology and Cisco’s Identity Services Engine (ISE) that you might not be able to get if your device doesn’t have the latest firmware update. 

New security features are essential to equipping your device with the latest technology to combat intrusions and shore up any vulnerabilities with your printer.  

  1. Addresses Any Features That Might Not Be Performing Correctly  

Because firmware serves as the communication between your print driver and your printer, sometimes this interpretation via programming code can have bugs or minor issues that can affect your device.  

Firmware updates on your printer, just like your phone, can fix technical bugs with your device that help improve performance and keeps the machine’s programs running as smoothly as possible.  

  1.  New Productivity Features 

In addition to the new security features you get with firmware updates, there may also be new features that increase the device’s overall productivity. 

Depending on the type of machine you have, firmware updates can add new applications and additional functions that wouldn’t be available on previous versions of the machine. 

Apps, in particular, have become more and more common as printer technology continues to advance. 

To learn more about printer apps, read the blogs below: 

  1. Keeps Compatibility with New Operating Systems  

When computer operating systems change and new versions are released, incompatibility between operating systems and firmware can arise, resulting in a loss of full functionality of the printing device and its features.  

This can range from a minor annoyance to a severe disruption in business processes, especially when team members are relying on certain functions to perform as expected.   

Keeping your firmware up to date is your best chance of mitigating the potential risk of incurring problems that could come with incompatible operating systems. 

For a look at some of the most common printer security mistakes and how to solve them, watch the video below: 

How Do You Update Your Printer’s Firmware? 

You’ve now learned what firmware is and why it’s important, but how do you install the latest updates on your printer? 

This will usually depend on the brand of equipment you have, but newer printer models have update capabilities within the settings of the device itself, or on the embedded webpage—which you can get to by typing your printer’s IP address into a web browser. 

Some machines can come with auto-firmware updates, but this is not guaranteed, and a lot of times, you have to be under a managed print services contract to enable automatic updates. 

Older printers require you to visit the manufacturer’s website to download and install updated firmware manually. This is usually an easy process, but it means that you must remember to look for new firmware updates periodically. 

An important thing to note about older printer models is the manufacturer of your machine may stop supporting firmware updates on older machines (think 5-10 years).  

This means that as the machine ages, it’s less likely that the newest security and productivity features from firmware updates will be supported on the device. 

This is why older printers can be especially vulnerable as entry points into your network. Read our blog on why older printers are security threats to learn more.  

Need Help Updating Your Firmware?  

Printer security is one of those things that, understandably, takes a backseat to your company’s more pertinent, revenue-generating, tasks.  

But if you leave your printers vulnerable, namely by not incorporating the latest firmware updates, then it can become a central issue that could affect your business and the clients you deal with. 

Firmware updates are a simple but crucial measure to ensure that your device is protected from intrusions. 

Furthermore, firmware updates can net you the latest productivity features and tie up any loose ends that might be causing minor issues with your machine.  

They’re free to implement and should absolutely be used as a measure to not only protect your printer from a breach—but your entire network as a whole, too. 

Network intrusions can happen to anyone at any time, and they are rapidly increasing as the workplace moves toward a digital space.  

We stay up to date with all the latest happenings on the printer security front because our goal is to keep your devices as safe as possible. 

If you need help installing firmware updates on your device, or you need assistance with any other printing matter, reach out to us and one of our team of experts will get back to you shortly.