Why Printers Are a Large Cyber Security Threat

A hacker known as Stack over flowing, recently launched a global attack on 150,000 printers, according to Cyber Security Insiders. The good news is that he was only doing it for fun – as a way to raise awareness of the poor security measures taken to safeguard modern-day printers. In the attack, he made the printers pass messages like “pwned” and “you are now part of Flaming botnet.”

Printers

Printers are a large cybersecurity threat (Source: Pixabay

While businesses were lucky enough this time, there is still the question of whether businesses would be ready when/if such an attack would be launched. Ideally, businesses need to look for ways to make printing safer. Here is why printers still remain a security threat:

Corporate Budgets Might Ignore Printers

Printers tend to interact with corporate data and devices in many ways. Some of the most sensitive information from your organization is typically printed out. This can include credit card details and even business secrets. While conventional printers used to be dumb, today’s smart printers allow the devices to be connected to the internet and corporate networks for easy communication.

When it comes to corporate security, business leaders tend to focus on the key IT assets, such as protecting servers and patching software. Sadly, your business is only as secure as your weakest point, and printers are the weakest points for some of these businesses. By ignoring printer security, the chances are that hackers can get into corporate networks and access the data stored within the printers or even print the wrong kind of information.

Why Printers Store Data

Modern computers tend to come with both RAM (volatile memory) and ROM (non-volatile memory). As a good example, try printing out a couple of pages of documents on your printer, and disconnect the computer from the printer immediately it starts printing. You will notice that the printer is still printing even after you have disconnected it from the source computer. Ideally, printer manufacturers added the memory storing this data for a couple of reasons:

  1. Modern color printers do their job through a marvelous yet complicated combination of different ink colors, according to Needham Inks- needham-ink.com. For a better chance of success, the printers used sophisticated printing languages to control the final look of the document being printed. In most cases, these languages are programming languages that give the computer full control over the printing process and outcomes. The printer needs to store the computer program within its memory for this to work.
  2. For fast printing processes, the memory within the printer is meant to allow it to accept the document at the fastest rate that the connection allows. Even if the source computer slows down, this won’t affect the speed of the printer.

It Starts With Enabling Updates From Manufacturers

Once in a while, manufacturers might find issues in their printers. Once they solve the issue, they send out updates that are meant to patch the vulnerable devices. Sadly, they can only do this much, and the rest of the journey depends on whether you update your printers or not and the security measures you take. Be sure to watch out for updates from manufacturers and make the updates as soon as they show up.

Other Ways To Secure Printers

protect your printer How to protect your printer (Source: Pixabay

Be sure to lock down your printers using strong firewalls to prevent hackers from accessing them. On the other hand, you should also disable unnecessary protocols and change the default passwords on your printers. Lastly, implement secure pull-printing technology. This will allow employees to print documents to a secure queue and access their documents using their log-in credentials or ID cards.

Read also :Top Tips for Cyber Security

Conclusion

Every weak point in your security posture has to be dealt with. Otherwise, you risk losing sensitive information and hurting your business’ credibility among business stakeholders. Allocate a budget to printer security to avoid the above risks.