The security of your network is paramount for businesses of all sizes. The risk of being hacked is all too prevalent and the costs involved in resolving an issue can be considerable. In some cases, it can cost you your business.
No wonder then that companies pay thousands of pounds to monitor and protect their network. But often resources are focused on protecting the network edge. A firewall is installed, anti-virus software is rolled out and secure Wi-Fi is implemented to prevent unauthorised access.
But a recent report by Sharp highlights a major flaw in the protection of most small business networks. The office printer.
On the outside, the humble printer may not look to have changed much over the past decade. But on the inside, they have evolved to become powerful computer systems. What’s more, these devices are connected to the network, many using Wi-Fi which provides an easy access point for hackers.
SMBs are most at risk
Sharps survey interviewed more than 5,500 employees at small and medium-sized businesses across Europe. The results showed a worrying lack of information about the risks printers present.
More than half of the respondents in the survey were not aware that a printer could be hacked. And 62% of workers in companies with fewer than 49 employees said anyone could access their office printer.
Highlights from the research include:
10% of workers identified the office printer as a security risk.
21% of workers say they don’t have any security process in place for printers.
25% of workers say they have found personal or confidential information on a printer which was not meant for them.
28% of workers say they have used an office printer to print out personal documents.
14% of workers say they have used an office printer to print a document downloaded from the internet despite warnings that the file may present a security risk.
What risk do printers pose to SMB security?
It is perhaps not surprising that nine out of ten office workers do not recognise the printer as a security risk. Just how much information can be obtained from a printer anyway? To help companies understand the risks, Sharp partnered with ethical hacker Jens Müller.
Müller says that printers pose three primary risks to network security. Firstly, as connected network devices, they provide hackers with an easy and often unprotected access point to the network. This allows them to obtain passwords used for communication protocols which can then be used to infiltrate other devices.
Secondly, the devices themselves hold vital information. If a company uses a printer to print invoices, for example, all that sensitive data can be seen by the hacker. This data can then be used to compromise/disrupt the business or used to attack clients with phishing emails.
Thirdly, the device itself could be compromised and used in a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack. This was seen back in 2016 when printers were used in the Mirai Botnet attack which affected thousands of devices around the world – an attack which is regarded as the largest attack of its kind.
How can SMBs protect themselves
While the risk of being hacked can never be eliminated it’s clear that printers represent a weak point in network security. Müller says that education is the first step to protecting the network. Companies need to make staff aware of the threat printers present, in the same way, they train staff to recognise phishing attacks.
Network administrators also need to be aware of the risks so they can mitigate against them. The good news is that securing printers is easier than you think. To help admins prepare, Sharp has created a list of 10 printer security tips which should be implemented across all printers and MFPs on the network. Most of them can be completed easily and don’t require any extra investment, aside from your time.
If you need help securing your printer fleet get in touch with the experts at Leemic. As one of the largest suppliers of integrated office solutions in the UK, we have the skills needed to ensure your printers are secure. Get in touch with your local Leemic representative or complete the contact form here for more details.