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Is Your Printer Putting You At Risk?

The world is becoming more and more advanced by the minute, even toasters and kettles are now smarter than we are – chances are that your print device is the same.

These machines now contain hardware, software, internet access, e-mail functions and network access – they are, in effect, a PC that you can print directly out of. Advanced devices like these have provided a massive boost in productivity, reducing waste and making the workplace a more efficient place. However, it can leave companies with a gaping hole in their security system if not used properly.

Printers can be extremely vulnerable to data hacks simply because they are not considered by organisations as part of their IT security. It could be possible for hackers to gain access to print devices and syphon out documents, using the printer memory.

The International Data Corporation (IDC) predicts that by 2020, 25 billion connected “things” will be in use – up from 4.9 billion in 2015. This dramatic growth is due to the increased demand for tablets, mobile phones, wearable technologies and so on. With this rapid expansion rate, there is of course further opportunity for cybercrime through unprotected, or under protected, contact points in the system.

Should a data breach occur within a company, the cost of resolving it would undoubtedly be enormous and whilst a breach might be due to a deliberate cyberattack, it might just as easily be an accidental internal breach or a regulatory or legal non-compliance issue. Yet printers continue to be frequently overlooked as a priority, falling far behind PCs, mobile devices and servers. A 2015 survey showed that only 18% of IT professionals considered printers to be a medium to high risk, versus 91% for PC devices. In fact, only 44% had any security in place for network-connected printers.

How to keep your data safe

  • Most print devices can be fitted with hard drive encryption and data erasing software which are used to prevent data from being stolen from the machine’s hard drive.
  • User authentication can be used which will mean that documents are only printed when the user is at the device, usually through use of an ID card, thus limiting the number of documents that are left lying around.
  • Make sure that printing becomes part of your security strategy, ensuring that it is dealt with in the same way as other technologies within your workplace.
  • Train all employees that will be using the print device so that they understand and conform with data protection laws and act responsibly and securely.
  • Make sure that hardware is kept up to date as well the device’s firmware and drivers. Software updates will often add new or improved security features, as well as fixing bugs and patching holes in security.