Your Network Copier/Printers Are a Major Security Risk

Written by Tim Jones on Monday, 11 February 2013. Posted in Cyber Security

Your Network Copier/Printers Are a Major Security Risk

Have you ever copied a patient’s ID, social security card or credit card? You, or someone in your practice probably has and if that printer is hooked up to your network, you could be posing a serious risk to your practice by making it very easy for a hacker to steal that data!

Most modern printers and copiers have internal hard drives. Most people don’t realize it, but every time you make a copy, or send a job to the printer, it is stored on that hard drive. This is so print jobs can be prioritized or queued for later, but it poses a serious cyber security risk.

The risk comes in two ways:

  1. 1.While the printer is in use at your office
  2. 2.After you sell or get rid of the printer

Secure Your Network Copier/Printer While In Use

We’ve seen incidences where hackers have gained access to a business’ network and programmed the printers to print out threatening messages with each print job. And there were two research studies conducted at Columbia University that showed how easy it was for hackers to exploit copier/printer’s security weaknesses to take control of the system, steal data from the device and even issue commands that could cause the device to catch fire!

The first step to preventing hackers from gaining access to your copier/printer is to secure the network. If you have a wireless network set up in your office, make sure you change the default administrator name and password, do not leave the SSID to the default—change it to something else, and enable the best wireless encryption that's compatible with all of your devices.

Your printers, and all other device that connect to your network should be secured individually too! Think of network security as the castle walls. They protect everyone and everything inside the walls, but in case of a wall breach, which in the cyber world is often not that difficult; wouldn’t you want to have a lock on your home’s door too?

At a minimum, you should password protect your copier/printers. And do not use the default password, because hackers know what they are!

Consult a security professional about encrypting the hard drive on your copier/printer and other security measures that may be enacted to secure your valuable data.

Disposing of Your Copier/Printer

If you have been using a copier/printer in your business what should you do before selling or disposing of it?

Copiers/Printers with Optional Hard Drives

If your copier/printer hard drive was an optional component you'll generally find it easy to remove. It is possible to take that hard drive once removed, mount it to a computer and wipe the data off of it, although this may require significant computer skill. You can also consider simply destroying the hard drive component.

Copiers/Printers with Integrated Hard Drives

If the copier/printer’s hard drive is fully integrated, then it most likely cannot be removed. Some manufactures may offer a utility to wipe the integrated hard drive clean, but if they do not, then the copier/printer may have to be destroyed altogether.

About the Author

Tim Jones

Tim Jones

Tim Jones has over 20 years experience as a management professional in Information Systems, Communications and Information Technology in global environments. He was the Founder and President of Advanced Concepts Engineering. He is also the former Lead government representative for the Joint Operations Technology Center for Space and Naval Warfare.

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