What Is a Security Threat to Printers?

According to a 2023 industry survey, 55 percent of organizations have a zero trust policy in place. In addition, 97 percent of the surveyed organizations without a zero trust policy were planning to have one within the next 12 to 18 months.

In zero trust printing, controls have been added to an organization’s networked printers to increase visibility and security. These controls provide a wide range of benefits, including reduced paper waste, greater security of freshly printed materials, an electronic record of who printed a document, which device they used and what was printed.

This type of organizational policy is designed to reduce security threats to printers.

Wondering what types of threats are lurking out there that could be aimed toward your organization’s printers? There might be more than you think!

Here’s a list of potential printer security threats to keep in mind as you ponder the thought of zero trust printing:

1. Unsecured Printing on a Shared Printer

When a user sends a document to print on a shared printer and that document is printed immediately, it could get mixed up at the output tray with other print jobs sent within a similar timeframe.

What if you were printing a document with confidential information in it? This example of unsecured printing could put your printed documents at risk if they end up in the wrong hands before you arrive at the printer to pick up the pages.

Password-protecting printers through the use of card keys, mobile devices or PIN codes until the authorized user unlocks the shared device, will help to prevent document theft or unintentional viewing.

This method of secure printing is often called Follow Me (or Find Me) printing and is essential to ensure compliance with standards in the healthcare, financial and educational industries. Many other organizations implement Follow Me printing as a best practice, since it can also be used to aid in locating the source of a data breach, in the event that one occurs.

Follow Me printing can be used with in-office computers, mobile devices and can reduce printer-related security threats in organizations with employee bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies.

2. Not Regularly Updating Printer Firmware

Don’t let your printers become a backdoor for hackers to enter your network. Keeping your printer firmware updated is an important part of your IT security strategy. Firmware updates are issued by printer equipment manufacturers and typically add new functionality or fix/patch known issues such as closing loopholes in the software that might be exploitable. You could update your firmware manually, or for convenience, a Managed Print Services (MPS) provider could configure your printers for automatic firmware downloads.

3. Unused Open Ports Permitting External Access

Once your printer is installed and set-up is finished, check to see if any unused ports are open. If an open port is found, be sure to close it as an open port is a security risk that could invite a hacker into your network.

4. Keeping the Manufacturer’s Default Password

Always change the default password on your printer as soon as it is installed. Hackers often gain access to manufacturer’s default passwords and hope that you haven’t changed it. Don’t give them a chance to sneak in. Keep hackers out by choosing a new password.

5. Not Promoting Printer Security to Employees

Printer security is important for all employees! It should be woven into your corporate culture through new employee training and periodic reminders or updates. Also consider accessories such as privacy guards on document output trays and/or shredding bins near your printer.

6. Not Erasing Printer Memory Before Recycling

Printer security while your printer is in service, is important. Printer security after your printer is decommissioned, is just as important. While the volatile memory in a printer disappears when you turn the device off, non-volatile memory works like a computer hard drive and stays until it is deleted.

The non-volatile memory of office printers is often quite large and would take a lot of time to perform enough prints or scans to delete old data.

7. Toner Pirate Scams

Be aware of telemarketing and email pirate scams trying to trick your organization into paying for overpriced supplies that you never ordered. Always question an unknown supply vendor who calls to “verify” an order or confirm your printer information. Otherwise you could be handing over the details about your print fleet or worse yet, money.

However, when working with a reputable MPS provider, their representative will always identify themselves and their company and have a record of your equipment.

Working with a Managed Print Services Provider

Relying on the expertise of a Managed Print Services provider, like Folo Tech, can assist you in streamlining your print fleet. And we’re got the tips and tricks to share with you to make sure your printing and copying projects run smoothly.

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