Printer Security: Why It Matters To SMBs
August 29, 2019
Being Certain Your Printers Are Secure Is More Important Than You Think
Endpoint security used to be simple: put strong passwords on computers, a firewall on the router, and keep the antivirus up to date. Once the endpoints—entry points into a network—were secure, the flow itself was safe. These days, that’s not quite true.
There are now so many WiFi-connected devices in the office that it’s difficult, if not impossible, to secure all of the points at which access to a company’s network occurs.
However, while the focus on securing the network has increased, things like printer security have slipped through the cracks.
As printers often constitute the heart of an organization’s document processes, small and medium businesses need robust printer security to ensure that data, documents, and operations remain safe.
Yet, printers represent one of the most overlooked devices when it comes to endpoint security in an office. Here’s why, and how to change that.
The Place of the Printer in a Security Strategy
Small and medium businesses are the number one target for cyberattacks—a trend which is only gaining steam. Cybercriminals rightly assume that SMBs lack the insight, infrastructure, and resources necessary to invest in the same level of security as more established enterprises.
However, even with the growing awareness among SMB owners about the need for expert security guidance, many misconceptions about vulnerability to threats still exist.
In addition, many executives and decision makers simply don’t recognize the threat to their organization’s security that a simple printer can pose.
In reality, however, global estimates indicate that 59% of businesses suffered a print-related data loss in 2019 alone. Only a third of those occurred due to the actions of internal staff, suggesting that printers have gained the attention of cybercriminals as a consistent weak spot in a company’s security strategy.
Why? Consider the place of the printer in an office. Many offices deploy powerful multifunction printers which are fully integrated with the office network. Used correctly, such a strategy drives productivity by optimizing workflow efficiency.
Users can access the printer’s functions via their computers, their smartphones, or via the physical device itself. To handle all of this constant access, modern printers come with sophisticated parts—including a hard drive and firmware.
In essence, most modern printers now resemble simple computers. Similarly, their connectivity makes them an endpoint for a company’s network. Without a strong print security plan, these machines represent an easy point of access for cybercriminals.
Common Printer Threats
Like more recognizable computers, printers experience susceptibility to a variety of threats due to their hardware. Some of the most common threats leading to data breaches include:
- Document theft. It happens in many different ways, from internal actors stealing the physical copy left on the printer to botnets which target unsecured devices and install malware which extracts data stored on the hard drive. When a company experiences the unauthorized movement of data via malware, it’s known as exfiltration or data extrusion—and Quocirca finds that printers are the biggest target for these activities.
- Cryptojacking. Cryptojacking occurs when malware installs illicit cryptomining software on a device to harness processing power for mining cryptocurrencies. Often, such malware positions itself on a router or other Internet of Things device with direct access to multiple computers to maximize available power.
- Hacking. Any network-connected device is susceptible to being hacked. Hackers use printers both to acquire unsecured data on the hard drive and to access other parts of the company’s network which otherwise exhibit better cybersecurity.
- Email attacks. In 2017, Quocirca found that 44% of print-related data losses occurred because documents were emailed to external sources via a printer.
- Printer tampering. Unsecure printer settings can be altered—intentionally or accidentally—to reduce document security. Changes might include saving jobs to another area, rerouting jobs entirely, or resetting the device to its factory settings to eliminate any custom security features which may have been installed.
Cyber Hygiene, User Awareness, and Printer Security
Printers are often overlooked as threats to an organization despite the fact that studies increasingly show that they can be an invaluable back door to a company’s most sensitive data. Businesses must take steps to secure their printers to maintain a clean, secure document environment.
Consider implementing the best practices for printer security. Such practices help produce a secure print environment by establishing good habits. Likewise, ongoing user training to help keep employees understand their role in a cybersecurity strategy. All of the security in the world is worthless if an impatient user disables it to complete a job faster.
Best Practices for Printer Security
- Leverage integration software to ensure a holistically secure print environment. Encourage users to adopt the native software provided by network-connected devices, such as Konica Minolta’s AccurioPro Connect. Printer manufacturers designed these tools to improve printer security without sacrificing the workflow enhancements their products deliver to an office.
- Secure the printer at its source. Require users to identify and authenticate themselves before they’re able to use the printing functions. This protects access to sensitive information and helps spot unauthorized access.
- Encrypt all print jobs while in transit. Encrypting the print jobs that are released to the printer help prevent digital interception or document theft from the printer’s hard drive.
- Configure the printer so it doesn’t store the office’s print history. Print jobs stored on the hard drive constitute a goldmine for cybercriminals. Eliminating it makes the printer less enticing.
- Develop a formal policy against abandoned printouts. Remind users that security extends beyond the digital environment into the physical realm. Train users on print reduction tactics, and to only print what they need.
The Role of Managed Print Services
As the business world continues to firmly rely on printing, SMBs address the many challenges associated with this by taking advantage of managed print services. An MPS provider is a specialist which helps a company access the necessary printing technology to optimize its workflow. Whereas both printers and cybersecurity represent major investments for any company, MPS introduces the necessary skills and experience which SMBs typically lack.
62% of SMBs leveraged MPS to gain access to the print management and security they lacked in-house. By doing so, these companies gain advantages which foster critical growth. An MPS provider can help an SMB:
- Improve their operational efficiency beyond what they might have been able to develop on their own.
- Access technological upgrades previously out of reach.
- Take advantage of more sophisticated tools such as mobile printing, cloud-based document processes, and automation.
- Reduce their exposure to security risks.
- Focus on initiatives which directly contributed to the growth of the company.
Today’s cybercriminals are as tenacious as customers are unforgiving—there’s no room for complacency or missteps. For companies struggling to keep pace with the rapidly evolving world of cybersecurity, a managed print service can deliver vital security and support.
- Many businesses overlook printer security despite the fact that printers contain hard drives, firmware, and a CPU—the basic components of a computer. As part of the infrastructure through which documents and data flow, printers represent a critical endpoint which requires security.
- Modern printers are susceptible to numerous threats due to their connectivity with the network. For SMBs, they’re the primary means by which hackers can access and steal data.
- Engaging in best practices in printing can help a company develop a culture which fosters data security.
- Managed print services deliver critical advantages to startups and SMBs through the creation of a cost-effective, efficient, and secure print environment.
Impact helps startups and SMBs develop robust, streamlined workflows with an emphasis on security. Connect with our nearest location today to start a conversation about securing your printers.