Can a Printer Be Hacked?

Submitted by Andre Schafer on Tue, 03/ 30/ 21 - 12: 00 PM

Can a Printer Be Hacked

PRINTER SECURITY | 4 MIN READ

With all the Internet-connected devices that now exist, it seems that almost any device can be targeted by a hacker. Can a printer be hacked? As a Managed Service Provider and printer dealer, our combined expertise in the cyber security and office technology industries have taught us about printer security and the ways in which printers can have security gaps. Keep reading to learn more as well as a few tips to better secure your printers.

 

[Quick Summary] Can a printer be hacked? In a short answer, yes, printers have various vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit.

Keep reading to learn more!

 

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Can a Printer Be Hacked?

How Can Printers Have Security Risks?

Printer Security Tips

Can a Printer Be Hacked?

Printers, an often overlooked aspect of a business' security infrastructure, can be subject to breaches. While many businesses think to secure other aspects of their network, such as firewalls and computers, they sometimes overlook the role that printers play in a holistic cyber security approach.

Hackers knowingly take advantage of this security gap to exploit a business' printers for malicious purposes. 

Both older and newer printers alike have various security gaps that cyber criminals can exploit. When your printer is hacked, the following can happen:

  • Data theft− Data stored on the printer can be stolen and then sold or used to carry out a ransomware attack.
  • Device "bricking"− Once hacked, your printer can be "bricked", which is when a hacker renders it essentially useless.
  • Botnet attacks Hackers can connect your printer to a botnet, which can be used to steal your data and carry out cyber attacks. 
  • Malicious device malfunctioning Some hackers breach printers simply to wreak havoc. They can command your printer to randomly print weird files or shut off, among other malicious actions.

How to Tell If Your Printer Has Been Hacked

There are a few telltale signs that your printer has been hacked:

  • Un-authorized printing jobs− If your machine is printing unknown documents that nobody authorized, your printer may be compromised. 
  • Error messages− If your printer is displaying error messages or printing documents with error messages instead of the actual document, your printer may be corrupted. 

If you recognize these signs, immediately shut off your printer and contact any necessary IT staff, whether than is an in-house IT department or a third-party IT services provider.

How Can Printers Have Security Risks?

Printer Security Risks

Older Copiers and Printers

Older machines are less secure, which leaves a host of potential issues for your company.

For instance, on older copiers and printers, the connection between a computer and the machines isn't very secure, which means that hackers can more easily access your information when it's sent over your network. 

For older copiers and printers with less security, hackers who physically visit your office can simply plug a malware-loaded flash drive into one of your copiers or printers, infect the machine, and then infect a company's entire network. While the odds of this happening are low, the situation is technically possible. 

This same scenario can potentially play out on newer machines too if you enable features that let you access documents stored on your copiers and printers from your computer.

These hard drives are unsecured, which means a hacker can hack the copier, access these documents, and then access your network. When setting up your copiers and printers, disable this feature if you can. 

Personal Copier and Printer Risks

Personal copiers and printers, especially older models, used in managers' offices come with a host of security risks. Since these machines are usually intended for home use, security isn't as much of a priority when brands build them.

For instance, "home copiers" can have a "print from anywhere" feature that lets you print documents to the copier even when you're away from the office. However, this "print from anywhere" feature has little security because it has to create a hole in your firewall to allow you to communicate with the machine from anywhere in the world.

This hole in your firewall can let a hacker access the machine and anything scanned on it, documents and files on that employee's computer, and even access the whole company's network. If you have this feature on your personal printers, turn it off.

Another security gap on personal machines that you might not consider is a default setting that, when you're scanning to the hard drive on a copier, allows you to open the folder from computers on the network to retrieve your files.

This setting allows for information to be written to and removed from that device from anywhere on your company's network and is generally done with minimal or no security. If your personal copiers and printers have this default setting, turn it off.

Remote Support Feature Risks

Any remote support feature where the dealer or manufacturer can remote in without your involvement or consent is a security risk.

While enabling a "remote support tools" feature lets your machine's vendor remotely assist you in fixing issues, this two-way form of communication creates network gaps that lets hackers access previously scanned or printed documents, or even get into your network.

If you have this feature on your copiers and printers, either turn this feature off or try to opt-in to one-way outbound machine support. 

RELATED: How to Keep Data Safe and Secure [5 Quick Tips]

Printer Security Tips

Can a Printer Be Hacked

Upgrade to a Newer Machine 

Newer copiers can have features like Transport Layer Security (TLS) that encrypt scanned files sent to your email encryption as well as newer versions of Server Message Block (SMB), which securely scan documents to a folder instead of your email.

RELATED: What to Look for When Shopping for New Printers

Scan your Network for Security Gaps

Hackers use network scanning tools to search for security gaps in your network, especially in your copiers and printers. When a hacker scans your network, they look for open ports.

Open ports can let them access the hard drive of the copier and view all documents in the hard drive. Hackers could even potentially get into your entire network this way too.

Think like a hacker and use the same tools to find and fix security gaps before a hacker takes advantage of them. Using a network scanning tool, scan your network for any open ports on the copiers and printers. 

Follow These Best Practices

To ensure that your device is consistently secured, you should:

  • Enable data encryption kits
  • Keep printer software updated
  • Connect the printer to the network via a VPN
  • Disconnect or switch off your printer when it's not in use

 

Printer hacks can lead to a host of negative consequences, from cyber attacks to data theft. Follow the tips above to ensure that your printer is protected.

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Posted by Andre Schafer


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cyber security best practices, cyber security