Printers are common office equipment. As a rule, there are several printers in a company; in larger companies, the number of printers is clearly higher. But unfortunately it is also common that there is no security concept for printers or that printer are not integrated into an IT security concept. Lack of printer security, however, creates significant risks that you should know! In this article, you’ll learn about the risks your printers pose.
Unsecured WLAN printers that have been infected with malware can easily become the key to cybercriminals in your network. Often, WLAN printers are used to print documents from notebooks, tablets, and smartphones. The problem with sending print jobs wirelessly is that malware can get to the printer in this way. If a WLAN printer is not properly secured (eg the manufacturer’s default password has not been changed), an attacker can gain access to the printer and then invade the operating system of the printer. Nearly all printers run Linux-like operating systems that can do things other than printing. In this way, a Trojan can be placed, which reads data from the printer and forwards it to the cybercriminals. In this way, the attacker comes to print data from the company. For example, if the printer is in accounting, the attacker may gain access to account information that they can then use for a phishing attack.
Print via Email – a security risk?
An accessible via email from the Internet printer is also an easy prey for an attacker. An attacker should have a valid email address from the printer to attack him via email. With a captured e-mail address, cybercriminals can now send a supposedly genuine print job, including malware, to the printer, which then becomes infected as soon as the print job is run, allowing cybercriminals access to other endpoints on their network. That’s why your well-powered firewall can do this be bypassed and your data is no longer safe. If you have no need to print via email, then disable this function! However, if you need this feature, separate the printer into a specially protected network segment. eg a VLAN which is only set up for these purposes.
How can that be? Quite simple – print jobs are nothing more than command sequences that the printer operating system executes. What quality do you think a printer operating system has in terms of security vulnerabilities, if it is patched or updated too rarely or not at all? Therefore we also recommend patching printers regularly.
Unfortunately, it often happens that printers that are no longer needed are not disposed of with the necessary care. For example, printer hard drives can contain customer data, employee data, or other sensitive data that should not fall into the wrong hands. Therefore, these hard disks must be professionally deleted or destroyed before disposal. Alternatively, you can also encrypt the hard drives, Many printers offer this as a configuration option. It would be fatal if a printer whose hard disk is still intact lands on the garbage or is left to another owner. It is relatively easy to make the print jobs that are not visible but still available on the hard disk visible again or printable.
Personal print data
Even within a company, data can get into the wrong hands when printing or reach the wrong eyes. Often, printers are not directly at the workplace of the one who wants to print something. The whole thing becomes problematic if someone prints confidential or personal data on paper, but this is then for a short time easily visible in the printer before the client picks up his print job. The whole thing is avoidable, for example, by a print release, in which the employee must authenticate himself to the device to start the actual printing. A random PIN on the print job is already a very good protection!
From this article, you should take away that even seemingly insignificant devices such as printers can become a serious threat to your business. This can only be counteracted if you protect your printers with your IT security concept. It definitely pays to take the advice of an IT security expert! The topic of printer security is still on the rise, and for non-experts, it does pose quite a few difficult challenges. If you have questions just contact us – we are happy to help!