Why Are Older Printers Security Threats and Should I Replace Them?  

Submitted by Karla Metzler on Thu, 06/02/2022 - 07:02

Office security is like a house, with its many potential points of intrusion.     

Although you may have ample security at the front door, you might unknowingly have left the back window open, which precipitated a break-in just when you thought you had all your bases covered.   

Your printer could be the back window that a hacker infiltrates, resulting in a network invasion that cripples business processes and potentially exposes sensitive data.     

This is even more of the case with printers over 5-10 years old, which we will discuss in this article.    

As a local print vendor, we’ve seen outdated printer models in almost every workplace we’ve assisted since cybercrime became a chief business concern for the last decade or so. We also know that most are not aware of the security consequences of older models until it’s too late.    

Why are older printers more of a target for cyberattackers? Should you immediately replace your aging printer, or is there another course of action you can take?    

Before we can answer these two questions, let’s briefly touch on the increased threat of cybersecurity as it pertains to your printer, so you have a general understanding of why it’s become a noted concern for businesses.     

The Importance of Printer Security    

According to a study conducted by Quocirca, only 21 percent of IT decision-makers in the United States were completely confident that their print infrastructure was protected against security breaches.     

Compounding that fact further is how easy it is to hijack unsecured printers.     

CyberNews’s hijacking experiment successfully hijacked close to 28,000 printers out of the 50,000 that were targeted, which amounted to a 56 percent success rate.     

We hijacked 28,000 unsecured printers
video screenshot  

Printers deal with a lot of sensitive information, from medical records to financial statements to personal information, making them a logical target for cyberattackers that want to access classified information for personal gain.  

Subtly, though, printers can serve as the springboard to gaining “an initial foothold into the local or corporate networks and find more ways to cause more damage to unsuspecting victims,” according to CyberNews.  

In addition to the personal harm that can be done with the breach of sensitive individual information, cyberattacks can also damage a company’s revenue status, especially when it involves the personal data of its customers.    

After suffering a breach of customers’ personal data, the average attacked firm loses 1.1 percent of its market value and experiences a 3.2 percentage point drop in its year-on-year sales growth rate, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research.    

Printers can be the infiltration point for cyberattackers because:    

  • Printers are often overlooked as a potential cyber threat, which makes them an easy target for hijackers since they are a weak security point for most companies.   

  • Many businesses use a printer to print, scan and copy confidential documents, such as financial records and tax files, that hijackers could exploit during a cyberattack.     

  • Because printers are now technologically advanced, with most having an internet connection and mobile connectivity, they are more prone to online hijacking from unauthorized users.       

The infiltration points on printers are even more exposed with older models, something we will discuss in more detail in the next section.     

2 Reasons Why Older Printers Are Vulnerable to Cyberattacks    

Here are the two main reasons why older printers are particularly susceptible to cyberattacks:    

  1. They Lack the Latest Firmware Updates    

Firmware updates may be the most crucial action you can take to ensure your printer is up to date with the latest security features.    

The problem with older printers (usually around 5-10 years) is the manufacturer of the printer may stop updating firmware for the specific machine at a certain point because of its age.    

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, you may be more vulnerable to a printer cyberattack.    

Think about the applications on your smartphone, or even the phone itself. They require periodic updates to fix technical bugs or add additional features.    

With the progression of printers from basic functional machines to advanced technological devices, they work in much of the same way as your smartphone in needing constant updates to add updated security features to safeguard against security breaches.    

This means that it’s imperative to incorporate the latest firmware update on your machine, and if the manufacturer stops supporting updates on your older machine, you lose some of your first-line defense against cyberattacks.    

Read our blog on the 4 reasons you should update your firmware to learn more.    

  1. They Don’t Include New Security Features    

With those firmware updates come new security features that may not be compatible with your older printer.    

This means that new security features introduced by your manufacturer, such as a Secure Print feature, might not be capable of being implemented on an older printer model.   

It also means that the incorporation of new security technology may not be implemented on your old printer.    

For example, Xerox (the company we partner with) has an external partnership with McAfee and has access to their whitelisting technology, which predefines a list of trusted applications and functions that can run on a printer to help prevent malware attacks.   

If you have a printer model that is over 10 years of age, there’s a chance that you won’t be able to reap the benefits of extra security protection that you would get with a newer model of machine.     

Should You Replace Your Old Printer?    

So, you’ve read why printer security is becoming a more prevalent issue, and you’ve deciphered the reasons why older printer models are particularly vulnerable to cyber threats in your workplace.    

Now, the question becomes: What do you do about it?    

The easy answer, of course, is to invest in a newer printer model and get rid of the old one. However, that is not the only option you have when it comes to making sure your office is as cybersecure as possible.    

Incorporating a managed print service (MPS) for your printer fleet could be another, more long-term, option to circumvent a cyberattack.    

The newer security benefits of a managed print service could include:    

  • Proactive device monitoring, which provides for 24/7 monitoring of device malfunctions and surveillance for security irregularities, as well.   

  • The ability to implement auto-firmware updates for your printer.   

  • Insight into which machines are most at-risk of a cyberattack and could either be updated or replaced.  

  • Reducing access to your printer fleet by consolidating the number of external parties that had access to your network of printers to one source.      

Managed print won’t be for everybody, but if you’re interested in making your workplace as secure as possible, it could be a fit for you.    

For more information on whether managed print could be right for you, read these blogs:    

Need Help Securing Your Print Environment?  

Cyberattacks are on the rise, and printers are a prime intrusion point for hackers to infiltrate your network and access sensitive data that can be used to cause irreparable harm, both financially and psychologically.   

This is even more of a concern with offices that have printers between 5-10 years old when firmware updates could be halted.    

As a vendor with industry insight into the cybersecurity world, we can tell you that printer cyberattacks are real and are becoming more common as the world becomes more technologically advanced.     

Luckily, there are steps you can take to combat a security breach.     

For one, make sure your printers have the latest firmware updates installed. Firmware updates can normally be found and downloaded from your printer manufacturer’s (i.e. Xerox, Canon, HP, etc.) website for free.    

If you have a device that no longer supports firmware updates and have concerns about your office’s security, it may be time to make a new investment, either in a new machine or a managed print service.    

If you’re interested in discussing a solution on how to make your print environment more secure, reach out to us and we can walk you through the next steps you need to take to become proactive about printer security.