4 Ways to Protect Your Printer from Cyberattacks 

Submitted by Karla Metzler on Thu, 03/03/2022 - 08:02
Printer Security

In a society that’s increasingly reliant on technology to conduct daily business tasks, the risk of a cyberattack has never been greater.  

You may think to yourself, “Yeah, but what does that have to do with my printer? I mean, it just, prints?”  

This is the type of thinking that could get you in trouble.  

Believe it or not, printer cyberattacks have become more common, and being proactive about the security of confidential documents is only increasing in importance.  

Because we’ve been in the printing industry for over 35 years, we have seen firsthand how cyberattacks can affect a business, and we want to help inform you of the measures you can take to avoid compromising delicate information.  

Because we partner with Xerox, we’ll be leaning on our experience with their products to conduct this guide to help you become aware and actionable on the issue of cybersecurity. 

We’ll be going through the four best ways to protect your printer from cyberattacks and some steps you can take to limit the consequences if your printer has already been hacked. 

Printer Vulnerability Test Case  

Let’s start with a test case to show how susceptible printers can be to cyberattacks if you don’t take the necessary precautions.   

CyberNews hijacking experiment   

In 2020, CyberNews, an online publication dedicated to helping inform people of the risks associated with cyberattacks, underwent a public awareness experiment on printer cybersecurity by hijacking close to 28,000 printers.  

What they did was target a sample of internet-connected printers to see which were in danger of a cyberattack.   

CyberNews executed this by using Internet of Things (IoT) search engines, such as Shodan and Censys, to identify devices with an internet connection that “utilized common printer ports and protocols,” according to their website.   

They used a sample of 50,000 devices to conduct this experiment, and out of the 50,000, they were able to hijack exactly 27,944 printers for a 56% success rate.  

What’s even more alarming is they had found over 800,000 printers that had network printing enabled and were internet accessible.   

Out of the approximately 800,000 printers that met the qualifications for the experiment, at least 447,000 were not secure.   

That is quite disturbing, to say the least, and portrays the issue of printer vulnerability in a practical light.  

For a further look, here is an example of the open printers on the Shodan IoT search engine, courtesy of CyberNews’ website.  

A picture containing table

Description automatically generated

Why Should I Worry About My Printer’s Security?  

The CyberNews experiment is a perfect representation of how easily printers can be hacked into if not on secured networks.   

Security breaches are happening more frequently each day. They come in many forms like ransomware, trojans and malware, and can be devastating to a business, both from a financial and dependability standpoint.  

Here are three reasons why printers are especially vulnerable to cyberattacks: 

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

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

These are the primary reasons why you see printing companies around the world taking stringent preventative measures to address cyberattacks before one occurs.  

For an example of how companies are tackling the cybersecurity issue, read our blog about Xerox’s approach to cybersecurity.  

4 Ways to Protect Your Printer from Security Breaches  

Now that you’re aware of the threat of printer cybersecurity, and probably a little freaked out at the prospect of it, we’re going to give you four proactive steps to ensure that your printer will be as safe as possible against a cyberattack:  

  1. Update Your Firmware  

Firmware is the hard-coded language that machines need to communicate and execute an action. It’s a necessity for printers to operate because the machine’s firmware decodes and provides instructions from the computer to the printer.   

Firmware acts as the first line of defense when it comes to protecting confidential information on your printer. It is imperative to always have the latest firmware update on your printer to protect against unauthorized external access.  

If your brand offers auto-firmware updates, ensure that it’s enabled, or at a minimum, set up notifications to alert you when a new firmware update is available to be installed.   

To learn more about why you should update your firmware, read this blog:  

  1. Set the Printer Behind Your Firewall  

According to Check Point, a software company that specializes in software products for IT security, 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.”  

Think of a firewall as a blockade of sorts that protects external threats from entering your system.   

To set your printer up behind your firewall, work with your IT staff to place your printer behind whatever security system you use to protect your network from outside intrusion and thwart any attempts of a hijack.  

  1. Utilize IP Filtering  

IP filtering allows you to identify in the printer a specific list of IP addresses that the printer will only allow communication from.  

If an unidentified IP address tries to access your network, it will be discarded if they don’t meet the IP addresses you specified in your printer.  

In basic terms, IP filtering offers further protection against unauthorized access by allowing you to filter who has access to your printer and who doesn’t.  

To learn how to restrict an IP address, read Xerox’s ten-step guide on IP filtering.  

  1. Select a Printing Company That’s Partnered With Security Providers  

A preventative measure you can take before purchasing a printer is focusing on a certain company’s commitment to security, which can be substantiated by its partnerships with outside security companies.  

During your printer research process, thoroughly investigate the company’s security measures and see if they have outside partnerships with security companies that help further their product’s security.  

For instance, Xerox partners with McAfee for their advanced Whitelisting technology, which allows only secure and pre-authorized applications to run on the printer.   

They also partner with Cisco to provide security through its integrated device sensors that help identify network-connected devices and help prohibit unauthorized networked devices.  

Most major printing companies partner with security firms to reiterate their commitment to product security and bolster their security systems from unsolicited access.  

Examples include Canon’s recent partnership with Symphion to strengthen printer fleet security and Konica Minolta’s acquisition of Depth Security, a cybersecurity consulting company.  

If you’re in the process of vetting out which printing company to go with, considering their security measures and partnerships should play a major role in ultimately deciding which brand to purchase from.  

What If My Printer Gets Exposed to a Software Breach?   

So, you’ve now read why printer security is important and what preventive steps you can take to ward off security breaches.  

But what happens if an unauthorized user still gets into your system and gets a hold of confidential information?  

If you detect unauthorized printing or notice an error message on your printer or in your documents, notify your IT department immediately and ask them to diagnose the problem and what additional steps you can take to fix it.   

Just because your printer has been hacked does not mean you need to buy a new printer.   

There are ways to stop additional hacking without having to shut down your whole printing system.  

Here are some simple steps you can take to halt any further immediate hacking after your printer has been breached:  

  • Change the login credentials for your printer.  

  • Disconnect and disable internet connection when the printer is not in use.   

  • Use a VPN to connect to the network.  

Experiencing a security breach on your printer can be frightening, but if it does happen to you, notify your IT department, and use these steps to help remedy the situation and prevent further hacking.   

Ready to Become Proactive About Cybersecurity?   

As a locally managed print vendor, we have personally witnessed how security breaches can cripple a company’s operations and overall morale. It’s a potentially devastating scenario that companies must be proactive about.   

Technological innovation has provided more opportunities for security breaches and cyberattacks and forced businesses to strongly consider cybersecurity as a crucial issue when purchasing technological equipment.  

Printers are no different; it’s vital to take steps like updating your firmware, setting a firewall, utilizing IP filters and vetting out companies who are truly committed to cybersecurity and have the requisite partnerships to prove it.   

It’s also essential to examine a product’s security features and assess whether a company is truly committed to safe security measures by inspecting their security partnerships and seeing how valid they are.   

If you have any further questions on cybersecurity or have any additional concerns, reach out to us and we’ll do our best to assist you.   

Graphical user interface, text, website

Description automatically generated