During the first six months of 2018 alone, an estimated 4.5 billion data records were breached by hackers worldwide, bringing to light the ever-growing problem of network security. As more and more records are digitized it's predicted that cyber attacks will continue to be a growing threat, and unscrupulous hackers are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their use of tools such as AI-driven chatbots, ransomware and cryptojacking.
While IT managers tend to be aware of network security issues, many networked devices including copiers, printers and multifunctional machines are overlooked, providing an opportunity for cyber criminals. Unsecured, or poorly-secured network peripherals are the digital version of leaving the back door unlocked - these devices can expose your entire IT network and compromise the security of your entire enterprise.
How do attackers use copiers and printers to their advantage?
Some of the most common ways that hackers use unsecured or poorly-secured network devices include:
Hijacking documents sent to wireless mutifunction machines and printers, and re-routing those documents to an off-site printer or hard drive
Accessing data stored on the hard drive built into the copier
Flooding the printer with material designed to disrupt your business, or worse yet, blackmail your company into paying a ransom
Using your copiers or printers as a virtual 'back door' through which they can gain access to the rest of your IT system
In fact, a recent worldwide campaign to promote a Swedish YouTube star turned into one of the most notorious cases of printer hijacking to date. Fanatical followers of Felix "PewDiePie" Kjellberg managed to successfully hack into a number of printer networks, using that access to send out unsolicited documents asking unsuspecting recipients to support PewDiePie's race to become the most subscribed channel on YouTube. While this case didn't actually cause anyone harm, it does highlight the security vulnerabilities that many network-connected printers currently have.
How can I secure my copiers, printers and multifunction machines on my network?
The good news is that there are a number of simple steps you can take to reduce the chances that your peripherals will be targeted by a cyber-attack - here's how:
Disconnect your devices from the internet.
Internet-connected devices provide hackers with the best chance of infiltrating your network - removing your printers, copiers and multifunction machines from your internet connection can go a long way towards improving the security of your network.
Regularly erase the hard drive.
Today's digital printers and copiers all have built-in hard drives that store data that hackers can use. Keeping your periphial's hard drives cleaned off on a regular basis is a critical part of keeping that data safe and secure.
Be sure to regularly update the firmware on your machines.