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Cybersecurity And The Workplace: Keep Your Office Copiers and Printers Secure

October 10th, 2023 | 5 min. read

By Marissa Olson


Cybersecurity is something that we may loathe but forced to deal with. Many of us see security as an inconvenience, even including us “IT people.” As a result of IT security being typically challenging to implement, we avoid doing so (even the most straightforward and necessary precautions) to secure our in-house and remote systems.

One of the most damaging mentalities to have is to think that your business is too small to become a target of a cyber attack. Or, considering the risk of an event happening is lower than it actually is. The important question is how do you keep your office copiers and printers secure in the workplace?

With the WFH environment so many of us are in, cyber crimes and cyber threats have accelerated the rate in which compromises occur. We are no longer able to just secure things within the four walls of our corporate networks—we must also secure our remote workers and devices. 

Our physical office locations provide us with the tools and resources to identify, protect, detect, respond, and recover. On top of that, we are now tasked with securing our employees’ home networks and devices. 

I’d like you to think about something for a moment as you read this article. How many devices do you have around you which can connect to the internet? I’m looking at my desk as I write this, and I have nine. 

Now I’m probably on the extreme side, but you probably have at least three if I could guess. By the way, did you include your printer, copier, or multifunction printer (MFP)? Yes, even these devices are internet-capable and present a huge opportunity for hackers to compromise your network. 

A lot of this is due to the manufacturer wanting to make it as simple as possible for users to use their devices. Many of us fail to realize that the simpler devices or machines are typically the less secure ones. 

This is a little hyperbole, but what I want you to take away is that there is an inverse relationship between simplicity/productivity/efficiency/ease of use (take your pick) and security. Understanding this is important as we make decisions on IT risk and what we will do about mitigating it. We live in a world where ignoring security risks is no longer an option.

What Can You Do To Secure Your Internet-Connected Devices?

Take a look at this article from our CEO, published by CyberNews. A group of cybersecurity experts recently went on a campaign to find unsecured printers—and boy did they find some. In their search, they discovered approximately 800,000 devices that could potentially be exploited.

They then identified a total of 50,000 devices. Out of the 50,000, they found that they could print (remote, from their location) a document to about 27,000 of these devices. The numbers alone are scary but let’s put some perspective on this.

This particular experiment focused on devices exposed on the internet. This means that they didn’t do any sort of compromise of the target network to gain unauthorized access to the printer. Don’t let this give you a false sense of security, though. 

Simply having a device like this (unsecured and exposed) to the internet is a very bad idea. This easily could lead to a compromise of other paired systems that the printer has connectivity to. Why? These devices are simply scaled-down computer systems with internet connections. As a result, they can be compromised in many of the same ways as standard computers.

Don’t fear, there is still hope! The article provides some guidance on what you can do. I echo it here at AIS because it’s absolutely the right thing to do. 

I’ve also included one other step you can take for all networked devices, like printers, copiers, MFPs, and workstations, to the core of your networks, such as firewalls and switches.

Turn Off All Protocols/Services That You Aren’t Using

Output devices (such as printers and multifunction copiers) all have a host of protocols that allow print via wired and wireless connections. Some will enable you to scan through a variety of methods as well. Do you need all of them? Absolutely not! 

A simple solution to this that increases your device and network’s security is to configure your device only to have the protocols you are using.

Change The Default Password For The Admin Interface

Few devices these days don’t have a web interface, which helps to manage the machine easier. When you take your printer or copier out of the box, it will have a default password that you use first to set up the device. 

However, what many people don’t do is change this default password. These passwords are published worldwide and simply make you an easy target if you fail to create your own. 

An easy way to add more protection to your device is to change the password, just as you would to your personal Wi-Fi network or even the passwords you use on your computers and mobile phones. 

Change The SNMP Community Names And If Possible, Password Protect Them

Okay, this step applies to nearly all network-connected devices. Many people don’t realize that most devices on their network are running something called SNMP or Simple Network Management Protocol. 

Simply put, this allows people on the network to read all kinds of personal information from an individual device and, in some cases, enables hackers to modify the configuration of a machine. 

The craziest part about this is that it generally isn’t secured and is traditionally enabled by default. So what can you do? Change these defaults, which is very similar to changing the default password.

If this is something you aren’t sure how to do, be sure to reach out to your office technology solutions company for troubleshooting. 

Keep Your Printer Updated With The Latest Software

As I mentioned earlier, copiers and printers are merely stripped-down computers—and just like a computer, they need updates. The updates are for features, bug fixes, and security. Failure to run these updates may leave known exploits. 

Speaking of software, be sure to pay close attention to what you’re installing. Hackers do a great job at sending messages to your systems that include malicious software—tricking you into thinking you’re needing it. When in doubt, double check what you’re downloading or installing. 

Use A Firewall

A firewall’s job is to protect a network and keep things out, kind of like a door to a house. Having your devices behind a firewall will, in part, keep from your personal/business devices from being exposed to the internet like the devices in this experiment.

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The Final Say: Keep Your Office Copiers and Printers Secure

There are so many steps and protocols to take to ensure the safety of your technology solutions. Now more than ever, it’s vital to implement these measures as so many of our networks may not be as secure as they once were. 

At AIS, we are not just an office technology company. We are a group of individuals dedicated to informing and educating you on the latest industry trends or best practices. We are here for you in good times and bad, so that your small business can continue on its path of growth and success. To learn more about protecting your devices and your networks, reach out to us. We’re here to give you peace of mind to help you win more business.

Marissa Olson

A true southerner from Atlanta, Georgia, Marissa has always had a strong passion for writing and storytelling. She moved out west in 2018 where she became an expert on all things business technology-related as the Content Producer at AIS. Coupled with her knowledge of SEO best practices, she's been integral in catapulting AIS to the digital forefront of the industry. In her free time, she enjoys sipping wine and hanging out with her rescue-dog, WIllow. Basically, she loves wine and dogs, but not whiny dogs.