5 Common Printer Security Mistakes (With Solutions)  

Submitted by Nolan Fowler on Wed, 06/08/2022 - 07:07
Printer Security

Where would printer security rank on your list of priorities in the workplace?    

If you’re like most companies, it’s probably somewhere between throwing away outdated food in your company refrigerator and cleaning up the coffee stain in the middle of the hallway.  

Translation: it’s near the bottom of your list.    

It’s easy to be inundated with more salient matters in your eight-hour workday and forget about your printer’s security altogether. This is precisely why hackers love printers as an intrusion point into your network, and why you might need to bump up printer security on your list of priorities.    

Our 35 years in the printer industry have afforded us an insider’s look into the technological advancement of office equipment, and subsequently, the need to secure that office equipment proactively.   

According to a study conducted by Quocirca this year, 68% of those surveyed reported a data loss as a result of unsecure printing practices, and only 26% of IT-Decision Makers surveyed said they were completely confident in the security of their print infrastructure.   

The empirical evidence of increased security breaches means that printer security is something you should take note of now.     

Much like bank fraud or hacking of your social media account, it always seems so distant until it happens to you.    

To take control of your print environment and stymie the chance of a printer cyberattack, we’re going to provide five common printer security mistakes we’ve learned over our years as a print vendor and provide solutions to them that will help negate the chances of a printer security breach.     

The 5 Printer Security Mistakes    

Now, let’s go through five of the most common printer security mistakes consumers make so you can get an idea of why and how security breaches and document theft can occur:     

  1. Ignoring Printers as a Security Threat  

CyberNews’s hijacking experiment demonstrated it best: printers are vulnerable to security threats and can easily be hijacked if not secured.    

In the experiment, conducted with the sole purpose of heightening printer security awareness, 50,000 non-secure printers were used as a sample. Out of the 50,000 devices, they were able to hijack and print out pdf documents on almost 28,000 printers, or about 56% of the sampled devices.     

Disregarding your printers’ security is the fundamental mistake consumers make with their printers.    

Printers are just as vulnerable, if not more because of their perceived decrepitude than your company computers as targets for cyber attackers.  

  1. Leaving Unsecured Documents in the Paper Tray  

Building on the last point, another key misstep companies make when it comes to printer security is a rather obvious one, but a common mistake people make, nonetheless.    

Many print users routinely use the machine and at some point, will nonchalantly leave documents in the paper tray, even if it’s for a short amount of time.    

To find the problem with that scenario, think of how many external parties come into your workplace every day. Do you fully know and trust every person that comes into your workplace?    

If you’re a smaller company, maybe you do. But if you’re a large company, you likely aren’t buddy-buddy with every single person that accesses your workplace and can’t possibly know their moral aptitude.     

What if documents with sensitive data are left exposed, and capitalized on by one of these external parties? Who is the party responsible in that situation? (Hint: It’s you.)    

As far-fetched as this scenario may seem, remember, it’s only a distant thought until it happens to you.  

And if you’re a governmental body, hospital or school district and deal with loads of sensitive information, this issue becomes even more pertinent.     

  1. Leaving Data on Your Printer’s Hard Drive    

If you don’t regularly wipe your printer’s hard drive of data, you could be leaving tons of information compromised and available for hijackers to exploit.    

Some people may not even realize that they need to encrypt and frequently wipe their printer’s hard drive, but if you don’t regularly do it, all the information stored within the printer’s drive can be seen if a breach occurs.    

  1. Not Having Your Printer Behind a Firewall    

Another print security mistake consumers make is not putting their printer behind a firewall.    

A firewall is “a network security device that monitors and filters incoming and outgoing network traffic based on an organization’s previously established security policies,” according to Check Point, a cybersecurity services company.   

Firewalls represent one of the key components of a print security infrastructure, and not having your printer behind a firewall can increase the chances of a malware attack and unauthorized network intrusion.    

  1. Failing to Update Your Printer’s Firmware    

The last (but far from the least) common mistake seen across unsecured print environments are failing to update printers with the latest firmware update.    

Firmware is the first line of defense against intrusion for your printer, and not having the latest firmware update on your machine can make you more vulnerable to a cyberattack.  

Just like your smartphone, printers require updates to fix technical bugs and close any potential security discrepancies.    

Firmware updates accomplish this, but they usually need to be executed manually unless auto-firmware updates are available by your manufacturer and set up to automatically occur.    

For more information on why updating firmware is important, read our blog on the 4 Reasons to Update Your Printer’s Firmware.    

3 Printer Security Solutions  

So, you’re now privy to the common printer security mistakes, but how do you counteract these mistakes and make your print environment, and office, more secure?   

Here are three solutions you can do right now to protect yourself against a printer cyberattack or network intrusion:    

Solution #1: Educating Yourself About Printer Security    

The first solution to combatting printer hijacking is also the simplest one: education.    

Knowledge is essential in almost every aspect of life, and the same logic applies to printer security.  

Educating yourself on even the rudimental elements of printer security—the risks and remedies, in particular---will make you more apt to take the cautionary approach to security rather than the reactive approach seen by most companies.     

If you would like resources to learn more about printer security, read these blogs:    

Solution #2: Being Actionable About Printer Security    

Not only is education crucial to protecting your printer and network from security threats but using that education to take the appropriate actions to safeguard your printer’s security is what will actually make your printer, and consequently your office, more secure.    

Here are some small steps you can take right now to make your office more secure:    

  • Check with your IT staff or print provider and see if your printer has the latest firmware update downloaded and is behind the same firewall as your other networked devices.    

  • Wipe your printer’s hard drive, if applicable, and consult your IT staff or print provider to see if you can implement a schedule (i.e. once a week) to regularly wipe your printer’s hard drive.  

  • Utilize IP filtering, or whitelisting technology, which offers further protection against unauthorized access by allowing you to filter who has access to your printer.    

These are a few steps that you, along with your IT staff or primary print source, can take right now to become proactive and actionable on printer security.    

Solution #3: Investing in Managed Print or Print Management Software    

The next solution is a more comprehensive one but is an option for companies that want to put a Game-Of-Thrones-like wall in front of their devices.     

A managed print service (MPS) encompasses many things, and not all are created equal, but one of the major benefits to most managed print services is that it comes with multiple security benefits, including:    

  • A 24/7 proactive device monitoring feature that monitors malfunctions and security irregularities.  

  • The assurance of always being notified of the latest firmware updates---some managed print providers even offer auto-firmware updates.  

  • The elimination of older or non-networked printers during the customary evaluation phase of your print environment that most MPS providers will conduct before offering a managed print contract.  

  • The reduction of external parties that have access to your printers, which diminishes the chances of document theft discussed earlier.     

A step further from managed print is investing in external print management software, like Y-Soft (who we partner with) or PaperCut, which, among other things, can require authentication from anybody that tries to make a print at the device itself and track who is making prints and how many they are making.  

If you’re interested in learning more about managed print services, read these blogs:    

Interested in Making Your Office Equipment More Secure?  

Ignoring vulnerabilities in your network, like your printer, can come with grave consequences that likely could’ve been avoided if you incorporated proper print security practices, and cyberattacks can lead to both financial and psychological consequences that can be difficult to resolve.    

It’s hard enough to deal with the elemental parts of your day-to-day job, but even the simplest of steps, such as having the latest firmware update or putting your printer behind your company’s firewall, can make those foundational tasks you do every day the only thing you need to worry about.    

Because the truth is, once a security breach has begun, it’s already too late, and the best you can hope for is a mitigation of the after-effects.  

As a print vendor that is up to date on all the latest print security solutions and constantly works with customers to help them take control of their print environment, we know what it takes to make your office equipment cybersecure, whether it’s something easy like a firmware update or something more elaborate, such as managed print.      

If you want a security solution for your office equipment, reach out to us and we will find the answer that best meets your situation.