Lock Down Enterprise Printers to Improve Your Security

Publication date: Jun 02, 2022

Last Published: Jun 23, 2022

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Read Time : 4 minutes

You can tell that an enterprise printer is doing its job when nobody is complaining about it. But issues with jammed paper, cryptic error messages, and misaligned or weird-looking text often overshadow something much more important that organizations often don’t consider: printers have become a major security concern.

Enterprise Printing Security Risks

Enterprise printers have advanced rapidly since the filming of the classic scene from Office Space in which Ron Livingston, David Herman, and Ajay Naidu destroy a malfunctioning fax machine.

Modern printers are basically special-purpose computers with relatively powerful CPUs, hard drives, ample memory, and extensive network connectivity options.

These hardware capabilities enable all kinds of smart features, from scanning to cloud-based servers to scheduled printing from mobile devices… but that is not always a good thing.

The problem with today’s advanced network-connected printers is that their security leaves a lot to be desired.

Eager to release new features to help them market their products, printer manufacturers sometimes release products with vulnerable firmware and other security weaknesses that make it possible for hackers to remotely insert malicious code and gain access to the rest of the network.


6 Critical Cybersecurity Policies Every Organization Must Have

When researchers at NCC Group tested six mid-range enterprise printers manufactured by HP, Ricoh, Xerox, Lexmark, Kyocera, and Brother, they quickly discovered more than 35 vulnerabilities. The impact of the discovered vulnerabilities ranged from denial of service attacks to backdoors capable of giving the attacker persistence on the printer’s network.

In addition to vulnerabilities in individual printers, hackers can also target the shared technologies and protocols printers use to communicate with other devices.

In 2020, for example, security researchers found around 80,000 printers that were exposing themselves online via the Internet Printing Protocol (IPP) port, making it easy for attackers to discover them.

How to Protect Enterprise Printers

Protecting enterprise printers without restricting access to them so much that they become difficult to use can be a real challenge. Instead of looking for a one-size-fits-all solution, organizations should implement security measures that fit their unique needs, and the measures described below provide a solid starting point.

1. Restrict Remote Printing

Remote printing over the internet is a useful feature, but it’s also dangerous. The nuclear option is to disable remote printing entirely by disconnecting the printer from the internet or turning the feature off in the settings menu.

Organizations that want to keep printing over the internet but want to do so more securely can implement IP address filters to enable remote printing only for pre-approved IP addresses.

2. Keep Your Printers Updated

The more features enterprise printers come with, the more bugs they contain. The good news is that leading printer manufacturers release updates for their products when major vulnerabilities are discovered. Installing these updates in a timely manner is where most organizations fail.

Printers that are so old that they are no longer supported should be quickly replaced, especially if they contain known vulnerabilities. The cost of a new printer is guaranteed to pale in comparison with the cost of a cybersecurity incident.

3. Track Print Jobs

It’s a good idea to track print jobs using native tracking functionality or third-party software. Knowing who has accessed each printer and when can be indispensable when investigating cybersecurity incidents involving printers.

What’s more, print tracking can also generate useful usage and cost metrics, which can then help your organization lower your month-to-month printing costs.

4. Change Default Passwords

Not all cybersecurity incidents involving enterprise printers originate solely from outside the organization. Employees themselves can contribute to them in many different ways, such as by knowingly or unknowingly changing printer settings.

To prevent printer settings from being tampered with, their default administrator passwords should be changed to something more secure. The same goes for other-printer related passwords, such as those used for the SMB (Samba) printing function.

5. Train Your Employees

The cybersecurity risks associated with printers extend beyond the physical office. With hybrid work gaining momentum, employees are printing from all kinds of locations, using both work-issued and personal devices.

The average employee doesn’t know that printers are routinely targeted by hackers looking for vulnerabilities they could exploit to gain access to sensitive data and other devices. Cybersecurity awareness training sessions that address this threat can go a long way in helping employees mitigate the risks associated with printing.

Conclusion on Printer Security

Offices of the future may be paperless, but most offices of today are home to at least one enterprise printer. Unless properly secured, your enterprise printer can expose your organization to dangerous cyber risks.

We at OSIbeyond can help you strike the delicate balance between business productivity and IT security, allowing you to print without worries. Schedule a meeting with us for more information.

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