Security Risks From Printers - Know Your Risk

printhackImagine credit card numbers for all of your customers and how valuable they are to your business.  Now think about how valuable they would be if they fell into the hands of a hacker.  How exactly could a hacker get this data from your company?  Would they hack through an employee email?  Phishing?  Worse yet, would someone steal actual physical files?  What if we told you that all of the documents you print and copy every day with those credit card numbers on them were available for access by hackers on your printers and copiers?  Crazy, but it's true - copiers and printers are some of the most overlooked items living on business's networks, and if left unsecured, they're a treasure trove for a hacker.  And the average cost of print-related breach is over $400,000 according Quocirca.

Now you may be thinking why would a hacker go after my printer?  There's nothing there.  Wouldn't it be easier for them to go for my accounting database?  The answer here is pretty scary - it's no, because more than likely, your printers have little to no security, and all of those documents you print are saved on the hard drive of your printer or copier.  Hackers can easily get into your unsecured printers and copiers, pull down all of the information from the hard drive, and find this pot of gold.

So if this danger is so readily available for a hacker, how can I close the gap on my data so my company isn't open to the vulnerability?  There are several ways you can protect your printers and copiers so they don't become data jackpots for a hacker.

  • Replace older devices.  Older devices tend to have less security measures than their newer counterparts.  Think of it as a home security system.  Twenty years ago, we had hard-wired systems with keypads that if triggered made a really loud noise and maybe alerted the authorities.  Today, security systems have cameras that are triggered by slight movements, recording everything going on in a location.  You don't need to download footage either, because you can get alerts in real time when the camera is triggered.  Your older copier or printer is like that old hard-wired system.  While it serves a purpose and still functions, there are better methods to stay secure with newer devices.  

Today's new devices include security functions like malware detection and digitally signed firmware and software updates.  This ensures only firmware created by the manufacturer can be installed on your device.

  • Utilize data encryption kits. Printers and copiers manufactured within the last five or so years have data security kits.  These kits enlist data encryption, which scrambles the data stored on your device's hard drive.  This makes the data virtually useless to a hacker.  On Sharp devices, data security kits also have features that overwrites the document on the hard drive upwards of ten times, erasing it from the hard drive.  These features must be enabled, so make sure you have that done.
  • Examine your network for open ports.  When hackers are looking for ways into your business, one of the ways they find an entry is through open ports.  Open ports allow hackers to gain access to the hard drive of your copier or printer and see all of the documents on the drive.  Once they gain entry through the copier, it is possible for them to infiltrate your entire network as well.  By utilizing a network scanning tool, you can find open ports and close them so hackers can't get in.
  • Keep your firmware up to date.  One of the easiest ways to protect yourself against hackers is by keeping your device's firmware up-to-date.  Manufacturers release new firmware fairly often because they are always fighting to remain secure from hacking.  Those safety measures are released when the new firmware is available.  You can keep your device protected by always maintaining up-to-date firmware.

While most companies have firewalls, anti-virus and malware protection, many fail to understand the vulnerabilities that printers and copiers can have if left on your network unattended.  With a managed print services provider and a managed IT provider,  you can keep your printers, copiers and network safe while you focus on the tasks that are critical to keep your business running.

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