Cybersecurity is a major challenge in the United States. This is highlighted in the Identify Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC) 2022 report, “Identity Theft Resource Center’s 2021 Annual Data Breach Report Sets New Record for Number of Compromises.” According to that report, there were 1,862 data breaches in the United States in 2021. This figure represents a 23% increase on the all-time high the organization previously recorded.

But we know what you’re asking yourself. What does cybersecurity have to do with printers?

Modern printers connect to your company’s network. As network-connected devices, printers create vulnerabilities that hackers can use to break into your network to steal data. As such, printer security is a key concern in 2022 and beyond.

The Security Risks Associated With Printers

Most businesses see printers as simple devices designed for printing documents. Even multifunction printers (MFPs) aren’t especially complicated, as they simply add copying, scanning, and faxing functionality into the mix. The problem arises from the fact that printers connect to your company’s internal network. This connection creates three core printer security risks.

  1. Whenever an employee connects an unmanaged device to your network, they create a security risk. An unmanaged print device could contain malware or viruses that provide hackers with a backdoor into your network.
  2. Confidentiality is key with many of the documents your company works with. That confidentiality is at risk if you don’t have adequate printer security. For example, an employee who works from home could print a confidential file to an office printer despite not being in the office. Anybody could see or take that file in the time it takes for an authorized person to collect it.
  3. Failure to manage print devices creates as much of a financial risk as a security one. Toner and other supply costs may skyrocket if your company doesn’t have measures in place to manage how its people use your printers.

Tips for Overcoming Printer Security Issues

With so many security risks to consider, your organization must implement measures to better manage its print network. The following best practices protect your printers, your people, and your company’s sensitive information.

Tip No. 1 –Tight Access Controls

Employees don’t typically need access to a company’s printers outside of work hours. Similarly, the printer doesn’t need to stay connected to your network when it isn’t in use. By limiting access during inappropriate times, you lessen exposure and reduce the likelihood that a hacker could use your printer as a backdoor into your network.

Access controls can extend to what employees can do with the printer. For example, you may limit the amount an employee prints per day or only grant certain employees permission to use a specific printer. Again, these actions limit exposure while also helping you to manage your print environment.

Tip No. 2 –Update Printer Software

Modern printers come with their own software and firmware that dictates how they work. As with all software, a printer’s software can become outdated. Over time, the manufacturer will release patches and software fixes designed to eliminate bugs and improve printer security.

Make sure you accept these software updates.

Outdated software contains vulnerabilities that malicious parties can take advantage of. When you’re not up-to-date, you’re essentially running a version of the printer’s software that is no longer supported. That lack of support can come back to hurt you if a hacker figures out how to crack an old version of your printer’s software.

Tip No. 3 –Restrict Remote Access

Between 2019 and 2022, the number of people working from home tripled. Even with most of the pandemic-related restrictions lifted, many companies offer work-from-home (WFH) or hybrid options that result in people working away from the office regularly.

While this may be a good thing for your employees, it can be an issue for printer security. Remote workers occasionally need access to an in-office printer, especially if they’re printing documents for somebody who’s in the office. The issue with allowing unrestricted remote access is that unauthorized parties can take advantage of and infiltrate your network.

You must limit remote access, with the following actions proving particularly useful.

  • Set up a network firewall that blocks anonymous and unknown third parties from accessing your printer.
  • Provide WFH and hybrid employees with vetted and trusted devices to ensure they’re not printing from personal devices that may contain malware.
  • Restrict IP addresses, so your printer only recognizes those that are within your geographic region.

Tip No. 4 –Delete Your Print History

Many MFPs come with a handy function that allows users to store print history. While this feature can improve speed and performance by providing easy access to previously printed documents, it can also create a printer security risk. If a hacker manages to access your printer, they have access to all of the files in its print history.

As such, it’s good practice to wipe your printer’s history regularly. The small loss of speed this creates is nothing compared to the potential security risk.

Tip No. 5 –Create Passcodes for Shared Printers

Physical security is just as important as software-based security. You likely have a single printer that multiple employees share. This creates the possibility that one person could print sensitive documents that other people see or pick up. If those other people have malicious intentions, you have a printer security issue on your hands.

The easiest way to overcome this is to require user passcodes for printing. Set your printer to hold documents until the person printing the document physically arrives and enters their passcode. This practice ensures sensitive information has far less chance of falling into the hands of people who aren’t supposed to see it.

Boost Printer Security

As a network-connected device, your printer creates a security risk that your company has to manage. With the advice in this article, you can limit access to the device in addition to handling settings issues that restrict remote access and make it harder for hackers to access sensitive files.

Staying up-to-date with your hardware is another solution to the printer security problem. At Modern Office Methods, we offer an extensive selection of the most recent office technology solutions to meet your needs. Serving clients in Columbus, Cincinnati, Mansfield, and Dayton, we can provide the modern printers and MFPs that keep your business safe. Get in touch with our team today, and we’ll discuss your options.