Cyber Security News

The Hidden Cyber Risks of Printers and Multifunction Machines: Protecting Your Business and Home

As technology continues to evolve, the devices we use daily become smarter and more connected. This includes printers and multifunction machines now linked to the internet, allowing for seamless communication and enhanced productivity.

However, this convenience comes at a cost, exposing these devices to potential cyber security threats.

In this article, we'll discuss the cybersecurity risks created by internet-connected printers and multifunction machines and provide the top three best practices for both business owners and home users to reduce or eliminate those risks.

Let's start at the beginning...

What are the cyber security risks of connected printers and multifunction machines?

Whilst the following list may seem overwhelming, after discussing each risk, we'll then share how many of these risks can be mitigated with some simple 'best practices'.

  1. Unauthorised Access: Printers and multifunction machines connected to the internet can be targeted by hackers, who can gain unauthorised access to your network. This can lead to data theft, malware infections, and even device control.
  2. Data Leaks: Printers often store print jobs in their memory, including sensitive information. If hackers gain access to the printer, they could potentially access and steal this information.
  3. Malware Infections: Internet-connected printers can be used as a gateway for malware to enter your network. Once inside, malware can spread to other devices and cause damage.
  4. Remote Monitoring: Cybercriminals may exploit unprotected printers to eavesdrop on your print jobs, enabling them to gather sensitive information or gain insights into your organisation's operations and plans.
  5. Man-in-the-Middle Attacks: Unsecured printers are vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks, where hackers can intercept and manipulate data being transmitted between your computer and the printer, potentially altering print jobs or inserting malicious code.
  6. Denial of Service (DoS) Attacks: Hackers can target unprotected printers with DoS attacks, overwhelming the device with requests and rendering it non-functional, ultimately disrupting your printing capabilities and causing downtime.
  7. Printer Takeover: Cybercriminals can potentially take control of an unprotected printer, using it to launch further cyberattacks on your network or to compromise other devices connected to the same network.

We understand, that's a whole lot of risk.

Let's now take a look at what you can do at work and at home to reduce or eliminate these risks.

So what are the Top 3 best practices for business owners?

1. Update Firmware Regularly: Manufacturers frequently release firmware updates that fix cybersecurity vulnerabilities. By keeping your printers and multifunction machines updated, you reduce the risk of falling victim to known exploits.

    Example: Companies such as HP offer firmware updates for their printers on their Support website, where you can download and install the latest updates for your devices.

    2. Secure Your Network: Implement robust network security solutions, such as strong passwords and network segmentation. By doing so, you limit unauthorised access and mitigate the risks associated with compromised devices.

      Example: Consider using VLANs (Virtual Local Area Networks) to separate your printers and multifunction machines from other critical systems, limiting the potential impact of an attack.

      3. Implement Access Control: Restrict access to your printers and multifunction machines to authorised users only. This can be achieved through authentication methods like username/password combinations or the use of access cards.

        Example: Lexmark's Secure Print Release feature requires users to authenticate at the device before retrieving their print job, helping to ensure that only authorised users can access sensitive documents.

        And what are the Top 3 best practices for home users?

        1. Change Default Passwords: Many devices come with default passwords, which are often easy for hackers to guess. Change the default password on your printer or multifunction machine to a strong, unique one to reduce the risk of unauthorised access.
        2. Disable Unnecessary Services: Printers and multifunction machines may offer services you do not need, such as remote management or cloud printing. Disabling these services reduces the potential cyber attacks.
        3. Regularly Monitor Device Activity: Keep an eye on the activity of your printer or multifunction machine, checking for unusual or unauthorised usage. This can help you detect and respond to potential cybersecurity incidents. One idea is to set up email alerts on your device to notify you of any print jobs or system changes, allowing you to take prompt action if something appears suspicious.

        So, now you know what basic steps you can follow to mitigate the cyber risks associated with internet-connected printers at work or at home.

        As technology advances, the devices we rely on become more vulnerable to cyber risks.

        By implementing the best practices outlined above, business owners and home users can reduce the risks associated with internet-connected printers and multifunction machines.

        To learn more about the risks of other 'internet-connected devices', you can read our blog called 'The Dark Side Of Connected Devices' HERE.