Printers Are Often Overlooked Security Risk

Printers Are Often Overlooked Security Risk 


IT teams today manage huge ecosystems of devices and networks, and it’s not uncommon for printers to slip through the cracks when it comes to security defenses. When you add the complexity of frontline workers using wireless mobile printers in the field, there are even more vulnerabilities. 

In a recent survey of IT decision makers by Quocirca, 61 percent said they’d experienced a data loss due to unsecured printing. While some of that is attributed to human errors like leaving sensitive documents in output trays, it’s clear printer security is a vulnerability that can’t be overlooked. 

Why Printers Are a Security Risk 

  1. Network Connectivity 
    Printers are a security risk because they connect to networks—making them a potential point of entry for cybercriminals who use them as a gateway to other devices on the same network for accessing sensitive data or installing malware. 
  1. Data Storage  
    Many printers, especially multifunction ones, have internal storage to save print jobs, scanned documents, and fax transmissions. If not properly managed, this data can be accessed by unauthorized users, leading to potential data breaches. 
  1. Outdated Firmware  
    Printers, like any other connected device, run on firmware that needs to be regularly updated. However, firmware updates for printers are often overlooked, leaving vulnerabilities unpatched and open to exploitation. 
  1. Weak Authentication  
    Default passwords and weak authentication mechanisms are common in printers. If these are not changed and strengthened, attackers can easily gain access to the printer and the network it is connected to. 
  1. Physical Access  
    Printers are usually located in common areas where multiple people can access them. This physical accessibility can be exploited to install rogue firmware, retrieve stored documents, or connect unauthorized devices. 

Basic Best Practices 

So, how can organizations protect themselves? Here are some basic best practices that’ll improve printer security: 

  1. Change Default Passwords  
    Default passwords on all printers should be changed to strong, unique passwords. This simple step can significantly reduce the risk of unauthorized access. 
  1. Update Firmware Regularly  
    Check for and install firmware updates provided by the printer manufacturer. These updates often include patches for security vulnerabilities. 
  1. Secure Network Connections  
    Ensure that printers are connected to secure networks. Use WPA3 encryption for Wi-Fi connections and segment printer networks from critical infrastructure when possible. 
  1. Enable Authentication 
    Implement strong authentication mechanisms for accessing printer settings and management interfaces. Consider using multi-factor authentication (MFA) where possible. 

UEM is Better, But Most Aren’t Leveraging It  

Because of the overwhelming number and types of endpoints that IT teams must keep track of these days, the solution is holistic unified endpoint management (UEM) that enables the control of every kind of endpoint—including PCs, mobile devices, printers, and IoT—from a single platform. It dramatically simplifies management, reduces the workload, and significantly improves security.  

By including printers in your endpoint management strategy, you shift to proactive defense thanks to active monitoring and automated patching workflows. 

Despite those advantages, new research by Stratix shows that most organizations have yet to move to holistic UEM solutions. Ninety-four percent use more than one endpoint management platform, and that’s despite 30 percent saying their endpoints lack adequate management and 76 percent calling the lack of a comprehensive UEM solution a vulnerability.  

Because they’re stuck in multi-platform endpoint management environments, organizations are not secure enough, are wasting resources, and are missing opportunities for cost saving. 

Device Types Matter Too 

Along with UEM, updating printing hardware to take advantage of newer and better security features is important. Brother printers, for example, offer enterprise-grade WPA3 protections like checking a user’s credentials to see if they are an active member of the organization. Data streams are also encrypted as they move across the network. 

Brother products don’t have hard drives, which eliminates the potential for sensitive data remaining on them after they’re retired from service. 

Hanging on to an old printer may seem like a cost-saving until it’s the source of an expensive cyber-attack. 

Stratix Can Help 

One of the reasons that organizations have been slow to move to UEM solutions is the complexity. Most don’t have the in-house expertise required, which can feel overwhelming. Stratix has deep expertise in endpoint management and a dedicated UEM team that can take that burden on for you. 

We’re also an authorized service provider for printers like Brother. We not only handle support and repairs, but we can also manage print supplies so you never run out. 

Have questions about how to improve your printer security? Reach out today for a free consultation and a personalized brochure about Stratix’s end-to-end mobile technology solutions.