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As cyber-attacks become more advanced, organisations need to rapidly improve the security of their print infrastructure to protect their critical business data. However, print network security is often overlooked, even though networked printers have the same vulnerabilities as all other endpoint devices. In fact, CyberNews conducted an experimental hijack of 50,000 printers to sound the alarm on printer security issues and successfully hacked into 27,944 (56%) of them, proving that a significant number of devices are being left open to malicious actors.

That’s why we’re exploring the current threats that can unravel the safety of your print infrastructure in this article, as well as opportunities to help your organisation strengthen its print network security.

Threat #1: Document theft

This is one of the most obvious threats to your print network security. It involves individuals finding confidential documents they don’t own in the printing tray, whether intentionally or accidentally. In the office, this could include visitors or other employees without appropriate authorisation, while for remote workers, the risk is more likely to be that a household member comes across the information. Regardless, if your sensitive business data gets into the wrong hands and there is malicious intent, there could be a serious risk of data leakage that threatens the integrity of your organisation.

Prevention opportunity

Having a smart printing device that offers a secure print-and-release function for all users can easily solve this issue. This means that documents are only released to the printer when the user authenticates themselves with a password at the device, allocating the job to the specific printer of their choosing. This allows confidential documents to only be released on-demand and to the rightful owner, eliminating the risk of them sitting unattended and forgotten in the print tray.

Threat #2: Wiretapping confidential printer data

Perhaps not as obvious, yet equally threatening, is the print network security risk of wiretapping. This involves an unauthorised individual hacking into your printer network and accessing the data that is stored on the device, or using dark-web software to intercept and copy data as it travels to your printer.

Prevention opportunity

To prevent unauthorised users from capturing data around your print jobs, ensure that your printers and servers have encrypted data and network connections and that your printer has an overwrite security feature that erases your data once the print job is complete. Your IT team should also be monitoring your networks regularly for attacks. Lastly, it’s essential that you educate your remote or hybrid employees as to the dangers of using public or unencrypted networks for work-related matters as many may be unaware that they’re putting the business at risk.

Threat #3: Hacking via your print network

If your network-enabled printer is poorly secured, this leaves your business wide open to hackers, who can use it as a backdoor to access the company’s network. If your networks are unrestricted, unmonitored or unregulated, or you’re using outdated systems or old devices that don’t have password protection built in, then your risk is much higher. And while password protection is useful, without robust encryption in place, this opening gives hackers space to launch dangerous attacks, such as denial of service, or import malware, viruses or ransomware.

Prevention opportunity

To ensure ultimate print network security in the face of this threat, you should implement appropriate network encryption. You can also restrict access to your network or printer by only allowing access through specified ports. Additionally, it’s a good idea to make sure you’re operating with up-to-date printer hardware and drivers because these typically include security patches and improvements. These can include network monitoring software to provide immediate alerts of suspicious behaviour and access restrictions so only users with approved IP addresses can use the printer.

More ways to secure your print network

In addition to minimising the threats above, your organisation can prioritise print network security, build resilience and achieve greater protection against serious threats by:

  • Centralising print management to ensure that the right security settings have been applied to every device in your network.
  • Educating all end users on the impact of potential data loss and what they can do to reinforce print security.
  • Choosing devices that can be configured to match the specifications of your organisation’s security policy and your specific risk profile and risk appetite.
  • Partnering with a reputable Managed Print Service provider that prioritises print security and tailors solutions to meet your unique business requirements.

Print security in hybrid and decentralised work environments

Remote or hybrid workforces create extra hurdles that can leave your company exposed to significant security threats if not promptly dealt with. A scattered workforce already increases the difficulty of controlling and monitoring data, meaning print network security gets shifted down the list of priorities. This creates a prime opportunity for hackers to make a move on the sensitive business data that lies across your print fleet.

As hybrid environments become more commonplace, it’s critical for companies to uphold a high level of cyber security. To learn how to strengthen your business’ security posture and mitigate risks in your decentralised workforce, watch our on-demand webinar.