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February 10, 2023

Step By Step Guide for Printer Secuirty

printer security

Every company understands that security is vital to a healthy future. Without the right security measures in place, a company is risking its data as well as the security of its clients and employees. One of the most overlooked areas for cybersecurity is the copy room. Multifunction printers, copiers, scanners, and even networked desktop printers are a risk to company security. 

Malware, trojans, phishing scams, and ransomware are just a few of the genuine risks companies encounter daily. With the 2020 pandemic looming large, these risks are even greater. Cyber attacks are on the rise, and companies are having to respond in kind. 

In order to avoid printer problems let’s take a look at copier security, printer security, and how to secure your office equipment. We’ll examine some of the safety measures that should be on your company’s to-do list to ensure adequate security. 

What are Printer Security Risks?

Printers can be vulnerable to security risks just like any other computer device. Some of the security risks associated with printers include:

1. Unauthorized Access: Printers that are not password-protected or are not on secure networks can be accessed by unauthorized users who can then print or obtain sensitive information.

2. Data Theft: Printers can store copies of printed documents in their internal memory, which can be accessed and stolen by hackers.

3. Malware Infections: Malicious software can be installed on a printer, which can be used to steal data, launch attacks, or spread to other devices on the network.

4. Phishing Attacks: Attackers can use printers as a way to launch phishing attacks by printing fake documents or messages that appear to be from a trusted source.

5. Physical Security: Printers can be physically vulnerable to theft, which can result in the loss of sensitive information or the inability to print important documents.

6. Lack of Encryption: Printers that do not encrypt data sent to them or store data in an unencrypted format are at risk of having their data intercepted and accessed by attackers.

To mitigate these risks, it is important to ensure that printers are updated with the latest firmware and security patches, use strong passwords, are on secure networks, and are physically secure. Additionally, it is important to educate users on printer security best practices, such as not leaving printed documents unattended and ensuring that confidential documents are not left in the printer's memory.

Best Practices for Printer Security

Keeping your office copiers and printers secure may sound obvious, but it’s astounding how many organizations take this concept for granted. Printer security is often partially deployed, but adequate, even advanced security is often missed, creating opportunities for cybercriminals. 

Physical security is one example of inadequate security. While we are often concerned with internet security, data can be accessed by people who want to help the competition or participate in corporate espionage. 

Data encryption is also often left off the to-do list when it comes to copy machine security risks. End-to-end security is vital to a healthy and safe organization.

To ensure printer security and protect against potential threats, it is recommended to follow these best practices:

Upgrade copiers and printers with the latest software

Copiers and printers, particularly multifunction printers, are often being sent software updates. Sometimes they even require hardware updates. 

Many organizations will assume their maintenance plan will ensure they have the latest software updates. Instead of assuming this, remember to actually schedule your printer maintenance for regular intervals. 

Ask your technician or maintenance engineer what updates they’ll be installing. If you want to be extra vigilant, call your supplier or maintenance engineer a month or so after service to ask whether there are any additional updates that are needed, including any patches for the last update. 

Upgrades are not something people think about often, yet they can create gaping holes in company security.

Use Secure Networks

Placing printers on secure networks, such as virtual private networks (VPNs) or secure Wi-Fi networks, helps to protect against external attacks. This ensures that the printers are not accessible from the public internet, reducing the risk of unauthorized access.

Change Printer User Passwords Frequently

Regularly changing user PINs and passwords is essential to reduce the risk of security breaches. It's important to choose strong and unique passwords that are not easily guessed by attackers.

Enable Two-Step Verification for Printer Access

Two-factor authentication adds an extra layer of security to the printer, requiring users to provide additional information beyond a password to gain access. This could be in the form of a text message, a mobile app, or a security token.

Update Firmware and Security Patches

Keeping printer firmware up to date and installing security patches as soon as they become available is important for maintaining the security of printers. This ensures that known vulnerabilities are fixed and the printer is protected against the latest security threats.

Use Encryption

Using encryption to protect sensitive data that is transmitted to or stored on the printer is critical. This can include using HTTPS, SSL, or TLS for web-based printing, or encrypting data sent to the printer using tools like IPsec or SNMPv3. Encryption helps to protect against data interception and theft by unauthorized users.

Turn on automatic log-off

Sometimes company’s forget that automatic log-off is an option. Double-check that your copier is set to go to sleep after a few minutes of non-use. While you’re at it, check that all users are automatically logged off. 

Keeping someone logged in for more than a couple of minutes means all of the data and files they can access are at risk. It may feel like a hassle, but logging back in with a quick code or the swipe of a badge takes second compared to the risks not logging off will create. 

As a final note on this topic, turning on automatic log-off doesn’t mean logging people off after 15-minutes. The timeline may work for sending the machine to sleep or power-saver mode to save electricity. However, it only takes a few moments for someone to collect their completed project. Set auto-log off for 2-3 minutes of quiet time to optimize security.

Control user access

This option is mentioned more often than just about any other option, but for good reason. It’s a valuable security tool that is rarely utilized to its full potential. Using the copier is a privilege. Assign access to staff with a usage code. 

Some staff may be limited to black and white copies. Others may get access to color copies. And others may have full access, giving them the ability to access their projects from the hard drive and email their projects to outside vendors. 

In addition, as mentioned above, users may need to have limited access to supplies and the actual copy room. If everyone needs access to the copy room, consider limiting access during after hours, holidays, and weekends. 

You might even add motion sensors to detect off-hours usage. Then ask the security guard who does rounds to include the copy room in his daily walk-throughs. 

Monitor use

Lastly, one of the reasons security measures fail is because the company institutes security measures but doesn’t follow-through to evaluate effectiveness through monitoring. Once a system is put in place, remember to evaluate its effectiveness. 

Who is the process benefiting? Are there holes in the system that need to be monitored further, patched, or re-evaluated? Are security measures negatively affecting productivity or efficiency? If so, how can they be improved? 

The feedback loop is an essential piece to any project, and security is no different. Remember to monitor and evaluate at regular intervals to ensure the best possible safety measures are in place for your company and the solutions that are needed most.

Final Thoughts on Printer Security

There’s so much that can be done to keep your organization secure. And, in many cases, there is so much that companies know they need to implement and just aren’t following through. Don’t let poor time management or a lack of security priorities keep you from successfully managing the best possible security measures for your company. 

Keep your office equipment secure by ensuring limited access, turning on automatic log-off, and upgrading your copier to the latest software. Protect already printed documents. Control user access. And above all, monitor the processes that you put into place to ensure their effectiveness and fit for your company. 

Printer security is of the utmost importance, not only for your company but for your staff, customer, clients, and even vendors. Implement solutions that make sense, initially. Then layer additional security measures over time.

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