Are Printers Your Security Weak Spot?

Liz Alton

Does your organization have networked printers? If the answer is yes, they may be one of your organization’s most critical—and most overlooked—cyber security weak spots.
The Ponemon Institute is one of the leading organizations conducting research in the cyber security space, and independent research they conducted suggests that a single data breach costs brands an average of $3.86 million. More alarmingly, HP research revealed that just three out of five companies include printers in their end-point security plans.

Can you afford to overlook printer security?

Are Networked Printers Really Vulnerable?

In today’s fast-evolving security landscape, IT leaders have many cyber security threats to consider. It’s not just the company’s most important servers or cloud-based storage solutions that represent a threat. All end points—from smartphones to network printers—are a potential gateway into your network.

However, IT teams may not be as concerned or prepared as they need to be with respect to their printers. HP research shows that only 16% of IT professionals are concerned that their networked printers could be making their companies vulnerable to cyber attacks. And at least 16% of attacks reported by those same companies came through their printers. The researchers suspect that the number of printer-based attacks may be underreported, due to these devices being monitored less than PCs and mobile devices.

What Kinds of Security Solutions Exist and How Are They Being Used?

Digging deeper into the research shows that there are a variety of end-point solutions. For example, the HP research cited above notes that:

  • 41% of organizations use network security on their printers
  • 28% of respondents had end-point security solutions deployed on printers.
  • 28% of companies are deploying security certificates for printers.
  • Less than half of respondents use document security, network security, and access control on their printers
  • Less than 40% use administrator passwords for their printers’ web configuration interface.

An effective printer-based security program requires that all of these solutions—and more—be in consistent use, in combination, with ongoing monitoring and response strategies in place.

How does your printer security strategy hold up?

What Happens When There’s a Printer Breach?

If you’re still not concerned, take a look at one incident that was designed to show what is possible with a printer hack. In November 2018, a printer hack made it clear that these types of attacks are on the rise. The now infamous “PewDiePie hack” took control of over 50,000 printers and had them print out marketing materials related to a YouTube channel of the same name.

But most breaches aren’t harmless. Hackers are looking for access points into your network, where your internal information, employee data, proprietary processes, client information, and data that could be protected under regulatory guidelines could all be at risk.

For organizations that haven’t looked at printer vulnerability in the context of their end-point security strategies, now is the time to get serious. Major hacks have shown that networked printers are a gateway into your network. Take the risk to heart before a data breach puts your information or customer data in danger. Explore how the cyber security components of managed print services can help you manage your network from end to end, while ensuring that your networked devices are safer than ever before from threats.

Liz Alton is a B2B technology and digital marketing writer and content strategist. She has worked with a variety of brands including Google, Twitter, Adobe, Oracle, and HP, and written for publications including Forbes. She is a regular contributor to Connected, Connection’s official blog.