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    June 25, 2024

    The Hidden Cybersecurity Threats Lurking in Your Office Printers

    With all of the potential security risks to a company’s network, printers are not typically top of mind for most IT professionals. They may be outdated, slow, or occasionally unresponsive, but as long as they print, they don’t get much attention. 

    However, these seemingly benign devices can harbor significant cybersecurity risks that impact your business and your customers. Networked printing devices like multi-function copiers and single-function printers must be part of your cybersecurity plan for it to be truly comprehensive or you may be putting your data security at risk. 

    Why Do Printers Need to Be Considered in Cybersecurity?

    Secure your printer against bad actors with help from UBEO!

    Printers might seem low on the list of cybersecurity concerns, but a surprising 61% of organizations experienced a print-related data loss in 2023. The term “data loss” is often fairly vague and that may make it sound less harmful, but this loss can encompass intellectual property, private information, and even HIPAA-protected documents. 

    How does this happen? Printers are endpoints, communicating back and forth with the network, and their often-overlooked status makes them more attractive targets for cyberattacks.

    Potential Consequences of a Poorly Secured Printer:

    • Data Loss/Data Breach: Hackers can steal sensitive information, often undetected.
    • Document Tampering: Malicious actors can alter print jobs, creating a complex chain reaction.
    • Malware Injection: Printers can be used to inject malware into a network, which then spreads to other parts of the IT environment, potentially leading to DDoS attacks.

    Hackers can even view and manipulate documents by integrating themselves into existing workflows, such as changing the email provider associated with a printer to send copies to a private server. These are just a few examples of why printer networks should be incorporated into your cybersecurity plans.

    What Are Some Common Printer Vulnerabilities?

    Keep in mind that vulnerabilities can be at any level of the printing system depending on where bad actors inject themselves. Many of these wouldn’t be obvious at first glance as they would have minimal impact on the day-to-day operations. 

    UBEO can help prevent printer vulnerabilities in your organization!Open Printer Access
    Many printers have unrestricted remote access for convenience. If not managed properly, this can become a significant security threat. Ensure employees use VPNs or SSL connections when accessing printers remotely, and have your IT team manage and monitor these devices.

    Outdated Print Drivers and Firmware
    Printers often go unattended for years without updates. Regularly check for and install updates to avoid vulnerabilities. Automate these updates where possible, but ensure the correct firmware is installed to prevent unauthorized access.

    Print Spooler/Print Queue Vulnerabilities
    Exploiting these can give attackers system-level privileges, as seen in the PrintNightmare exploit, which allowed remote code execution on Microsoft Windows systems through unpatched zero-day vulnerabilities.

    What Are the Best Practices for Print Security?

    UBEO recommends you implement the following best practices to reduce your risk of unwanted access to your network:

    Zero Trust Principles
    Always verify users, devices, and applications attempting to access your network. By adhering to zero trust principles, you can minimize the risk of unauthorized access, ensuring that only authenticated and authorized entities gain entry. This approach reduces the attack surface and helps to identify and mitigate threats before they cause damage.

    Role-Based Access Control
    Restrict access to only what is necessary for each user’s role. Implementing role-based access control (RBAC) ensures that employees only have access to the information and systems they need to perform their duties. This minimizes the risk of insider threats and limits the potential damage if an account is compromised.

    Safeguard Remote Access Points 
    With the rise in remote work, ensure remote devices meet compliance and security policies. Use authentication protocols, encrypted communication, and VPNs to secure connections. Protecting remote access points helps to prevent unauthorized access from external threats and ensures that remote workers can securely connect to the corporate network without exposing sensitive data.

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    Employee Training 
    Educate your team on printing security best practices. Encourage regular password updates and ensure access is limited to necessary functions. Well-trained employees are a crucial line of defense against cyber threats. Regular training ensures that staff are aware of the latest threats and understand how to follow best practices, reducing the risk of human error leading to a security breach.

    Protect data in transit with VPNs, SSL/TLS protocols, and encryption to prevent unauthorized access. Encryption ensures that data sent between devices and printers remains secure and unreadable by unauthorized parties. This is especially important for protecting sensitive information during transmission, reducing the risk of interception and data breaches.

    Change Default Passwords 
    Default passwords are easily found online. Regularly update them to enhance security, and consider using multi-factor authentication for added protection. Changing default passwords and implementing strong password policies prevent easy access to devices by malicious actors. Multi-factor authentication adds an extra layer of security, making it more difficult for attackers to gain access even if they have obtained a password.

    Stay on Top of Updates 
    Regularly update drivers and firmware to address known vulnerabilities. Keeping printer firmware and drivers up to date is crucial for closing security gaps that can be exploited by attackers. Regular updates ensure that your devices have the latest security patches and protections against new threats.

    Proper Decommissioning 
    When retiring printers, reset them to factory settings and use secure erasure methods to remove all data. Properly decommissioning printers prevents residual data from being accessed by unauthorized individuals. This includes resetting devices to factory settings and using secure erasure methods to ensure that all sensitive information is completely removed before disposal.

    How Can I Be Sure My Office Printers Are Secure?

    Implement and Increase Printer Security Protocols for your Organization!

    Printer security involves more than most realize, encompassing various aspects that even the best IT teams might miss. Partnering with experts who specialize in printer security can help ensure your environments are safe and secure. 

    If you’re looking for a deep-dive analysis of your systems to find opportunities for improvement, our Business Technology Assessment can provide you with the insight you’re looking for. Our Business Analysts and security specialists can help guide your team through the nuances of print security. If you would like to explore these topics further with our team, schedule a technology assessment for your organization. 

    CTA: Schedule a business technology assessment


    Erick Miller

    Erick Miller has more than 20 years of experience in information technology management and serves as UBEO's VP of Technology Solutions. Erick oversees the Information Technology, Solutions and AV, ECM, and Managed Services teams. In his leadership, Erick holds firm to the belief that you are only good as your team so...

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