Printer security. Not exactly a hot topic around the office water cooler, but it probably should be. And we’re not just talking about someone wandering past and snatching the occasional printout. We’re also talking about risks inherent in network-connected printers and those interfacing with the Internet.

Can’t imagine how an innocent looking printer can divulge your secrets?

Three words: Storage. Settings. Hackers.

Storage: If your office printer has an internal drive, it probably stored a copy of your last print job. When a printer like this is stolen, sold or traded-in before the memory has been erased, the thief or the new owner can retrieve confidential information.

Settings: Printers without password-protection are sitting ducks for anyone who wants to cause mayhem. It takes one just one practical joker to reroute print jobs, retrieve stored documents or hit the reset and change saved settings.

Hackers: Many businesses don’t think about hacking from the inside, but it happens and printers are especially vulnerable. Password-protection will usually deter insiders. Meanwhile, outside hackers eat unsecured Internet connected printers for lunch and what they do once they gain access varies. Some are pranksters who change displays to use a foreign language while others are malicious, controlling printouts, launching attacks on your network, stealing data or installing viruses and malware.

There are a few things you can do to mitigate the risk for printers on your network:

Educate Employees

A lack of employee training is a major factor in printer security issues and leads to unintentional negligence. In fact, a recent study revealed that most companies believe their employees do not see printers as a security risk. Educating employees will help reduce potential security breaches.

Locate high-risk printers

In the same study, 93% of respondents said human resources, sales and executive offices are the ones with the most sensitive data but have the least protection in place for their printed material. Taking inventory of departmental printers needing tighter security, labeling them ‘high risk’ and putting measures in place like password-protecting, will help with employee awareness and protect sensitive data.

Address governance

Who owns the printers? Not who bought them, but who owns their governance? Is each department in charge of their own printers or does IT own the processes for protecting and securing them on the network? Lack of governance is one of the biggest factors in insufficient print security. Of the companies surveyed, more than half admitted their security policies don’t include network printers and only 34% said they have any sort of process to prevent access to their high-risk printers.

Use technology

Xerox is a leader in high-speed secure printing. From automatic overwrite settings that electronically shred stored documents to data encryption to user authorization preventing unknown users from accessing devices to network security and more. Some printers come with built-in security; others can be secured on a network with additional software. Either way – technology is available to keep your office printers safe.

Put an action plan in place

Start by identifying and securing high-risk printers. Then educate employees on the risks and put a person in charge of the network security and adding the devices to the security policy. Next, develop and use technology to your advantage and remember: office printers are not the only vulnerable shared resource on your network.

In a previous article we outlined how to secure copiers, but again, security doesn’t stop there. Scanners, fax machines, and multifunction printers all sit on networks and interface with the Internet. All are vulnerable to security breaches.

Need help navigating the security issues surrounding office equipment on your network? We’re here to help!