Even in today’s electronic world, people like to print reports, documents, and images. Many business people have an individual printer in their office. Often these personal size printers are installed outside the network firewall. It is so easy to buy a printer, plug it in, and voila, print anything from your computer or mobile device.
Unfortunately, just as with mobile devices, weak device/printer security can put a company’s data at risk. A study by Quocirca, a research and analysis company, stated that over 70% percent of organizations have suffered a print-related data breach. Some of these risks include:
- A printer may have hundreds of security setting options, but many printers come without any security activated.
- Printers are frequently located outside the network firewall, especially if not purchased and maintained by the company’s IT department.
- Off brands while frequently cheaper, may not offer the appropriate security settings a company needs.
- Companies often don’t install security upgrades released for their printers. Just like other devices, firmware releases are available, but may need to be manually installed.
- Hackers can intercept documents and send a copy to a hacker’s cloud drop box, all without the intended recipient’s knowledge.
- A smart phone may be able to record a business’s sounds made by its 3D printer. A hacker can then reverse engineer the object being printed.
- Hackers can remotely control a printer and delay printing of valuable documents which might interfere with business security. A contributing problem in the recent Bangladesh bank heist with foreign wires was that a key printer was inoperable for days.
What a Business Can Do
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) published a report on replication devices (printers, scanners, 3D printers, etc.) in 2015. It identified the potential risk areas and suggested risk management activities. The report includes a sample risk assessment as well.
The report identifies possible indicators that should be investigated:
- Unexplained/unauthorized changes in configuration settings.
- Device uses more network time/bandwidth than usual.
- Time stamps do not align or make logical sense.
- Communications with unknown IP or email addresses increase.
Businesses should discuss with its IT and cyber security specialists what measures are in place or need to be added. Printers should be behind the company’s firewall. Non-company devices should not be allowed to be connected for printing. A schedule should be adhered to for firmware update review and implementation. Cyber security setting options offered by the device should be evaluated and implemented.
As cyber criminals expand their focus, printers may be targeted more frequently. Implementing cyber security measures on company printers will reduce the risk of data breaches.
Learn more about protecting yourself and your business at the National Cybersecurity Institute.
Dempsey, K. and Paulsen, C. (2015). NISTIR 8023 Risk Management for Replication Devices. NIST. Retrieved from nvlpubs.nist.gov/nistpubs/ir/2015/NIST.IR.8023.pdf
Fernandes, L. (2015, January 29)). Closing the print security gap. Retrieved from http://www.louellafernandes.com/2015/01/29/closing-print-security-gap/