Wireless printing has a number of great advantages. No tripping over cables! You can design your office however you’d like! You can print from anywhere, even from the front lobby or the warehouse!
Security At Risk
But convenient printing comes at the expense of security. Network connected printers can be hacked and infected with malware. A 2011 report from InfoTrends, claimed there were 30 million printers and multifunction devices connected to computer networks across the United States and Europe. In 2019 that number is closer to 50 million. Malware infected printers allow hackers to:
- Access confidential information
- Launch denial-of-service (DOS) attacks
- Access saved documents
- Send unauthorized print job
The most recent example occurred in Europe and Canada last fall, when The Hacker Giraffe hacked into printers and sent unauthorized print jobs imploring people to subscribe to PewDiePie’s YouTube Channel. TheHackerGiraffe said he got the idea for the hack while browsing a repository for Internet-connected devices, claiming he found 800,000 available printers, and decided to attack 50,000 of them.
“People underestimate how easy a malicious hacker could have used a vulnerability like this to cause major havoc,” TheHackerGiraffe told The Verge. “Hackers could have stolen files, installed malware, or used the printer as a foothold into the inner network. The most horrifying part is: I never considered hacking printers before. The whole learning, downloading and scripting process took no more than 30 minutes.”
Network Security Basics
Is your network printer safe from hackers? Unsecure printers are vulnerable to a variety of cyber-threats, but many of the most common attacks can be thwarted with the basics of printer security:
- Change your printer password on a regular basis. Don’t use the machine’s default password!
- Keep your firmware up to date. Manufacturers frequently put out updates to combat new cyberthreats. Stay up to date.
- Use encryption to protect both print jobs and the storage in the printer itself.
- Wipe the hard drive of old printers and network connected devices before you discard them.
What Else Can You Do?
The best solution might be to buy new, security-focused printers. All of the major printer manufacturers build security features into their machines.
HP might be leading the pack when it comes to printer security. HP Enterprise series of printers claim to be the world’s most secure printer, which can detect and self-heal from malware attacks. The printer runs through a series of data checks at each phase of the printing process, and if anything is suspicious, launches a healing reboot that resets and fixes security settings. HP is running an effective fear-based advertising campaign, with an ominous video starring Christian Slater:
The Wolf printer security video with Christian Slater
Ricoh also prides itself on printer security, claiming its proprietary operating system makes its machines less susceptible to malware attacks. Hard disk encryption and disk overwrite security help ensure that processed data remains confidential.
Sharp claims its printers can protect against nearly any malware attack, and The Sharp Security Suite includes Sharp MFP standard security features, Sharp's Data Security Kit, Print driver security features, and Sharp OSA technology-enabled security applications
With Panasonic’s Secure Print, data is password-protected and temporarily stored on the computer's hard drive until the correct password is entered on the printer unit.
Canon takes security seriously, and its imageRUNNER ADVANCE systems include a number of configurable network security features. This includes the ability to limit device communications to designated IP/MAC addresses and to control the availability of individual network protocols and ports.
Xerox’s state-of-the-art security features includes intrusion prevention, device detection, document and data protection and external partnerships with security professional like McAfee and Cicso systems.
Oki employs a variety of different security methods for its printers. An authentication and printing system can be implemented with contactless IC cards used for employee IDs, as well as using a transparent watermark on printed materials.
Lexmark also uses several different methods for printer security, including secure access, network protections, secure remote management, device certifications, security advisories, and secure document monitor.
You can make your printers and multifunction devices safer regardless of what brand you own. All of the major manufacturers build security features into their devices, but it’s up to you, the end user, to employ them. As the number of network connected printers and multifunction devices grows, so does the number of cyber threats. Keep your guard up and your print jobs protected.