How to Prevent a Printer Hack at your Small Business

printer hack

Key Takeaways:

  • Install Updates Promptly: Regularly updating your printer’s software, drivers, and operating system is crucial for maintaining security. These updates often include patches and improvements designed to prevent hackers from exploiting vulnerabilities.
  • Secure Printer Access: Implementing a password for your printer and disabling out-of-network printing are essential steps to secure your printer.
  • Limit Internet Connectivity for Sensitive Printing: For printing sensitive or classified information, it’s advisable to avoid connecting the printer to the internet. Instead, directly connect the printer to your computer only when needed, and disconnect it afterward.

A printer hack. You might stop, consider the phrase, and laugh. Why would someone hack a printer? Well, there are plenty of reasons, and none of them are laughing matters. More and more devices in your small business now connect to the Internet or, at the very least, your office network. Known as the Internet of Things (IoT), devices that can connect to the Internet range from your printer to smart light bulbs, smart thermostats, even that smart coffee maker you’ve had your eye on for some time. These devices have minimal network capabilities, but there is an invisible network line running from it to your computer, the router, and everything else. This means if someone finds a way to hack a device, such as a printer, they can rather easily move into your network, onto your computers, and through local storage drives.

It’s like investing in a major security system and heavy-duty locks, a guard dog, and everything else you can think of, but leaving your back door unlocked. You need to do what you can to prevent a printer hack at your small business. At Charlotte IT Solutions, we want to do everything in our power to help. So here is what you need to know.

Go On Now, Install Those Updates

Do you know when you’re working on your computer and a small prompt pops up in the corner of the screen? It tells you an update is available for some kind of application, the operating system, or drivers you have installed. You check off a box and tell your computer to remind you tomorrow. You’ve got work to do, and you don’t want to be interrupted by stopping your computer and installing something (especially if it requires you to restart the computer). Well, you need to stop doing this. In fact, you need to install the updates when they are made available.

Usually, these updates are patches and security improvements. Manufacturers and software designers are constantly changing and tweaking software in order to make sure hackers are unable to access your computer. This holds true for your printer. Driver updates may be made available, or your operating system might offer updates that will help secure the Internet connection running between the printer and the computer. By putting off performing these updates, you open up yourself to possible hacks. Avoid these kinds of hacks and install the updates when made available.

Place a Password On Your Printer

Have you ever been out at a restaurant, the mall, or some other location, you pull out your phone, look for an available Wi-Fi network, and find something like “Office Printer” listed? Naturally, you are not interested in the printer because it’s not going to connect you to the Internet, but for interested hackers, this might be all that is needed to move into the company’s network. The printer probably doesn’t have a password on it (no lock icon next to it when listed for printer options). This instantly waves a white flag to potential hackers, identifying it as an easy source to hack. Sure, they might need to be in the general area to spot this, but it’s the same as leaving your front door wide open and leaving the house. If someone walks by and is interested in taking a peak, they can, and you may never know.

Determine a Classified Data Printer

Perhaps you print classified information. No, this doesn’t need to be CIA level information. It can be very important for medical documents or financial records. Basically, information that could be valuable to someone else. If this is the kind of material that you print, you should avoid connecting your printer to the Internet altogether. Yes, it does make things a bit easier, but when it comes to securing this kind of data, you will want to take every precaution possible. This means directly connecting the printer to your computer, printing the document, then powering down the printer and disconnecting it from your computer. This will prevent people from hacking your printer if the printer isn’t connected to the Internet, connected to your computer for more than a few minutes, or even turned on.

Disable Out-Of-Network Printing

A few years ago, you might have used your printer or email and fax purposes. The fax machine hasn’t really been used in recent years, so chances are you don’t use your printer for fax purposes. If you do, you can skip this step. However, if you simply use the printer to print, you can go into the menu settings for the printer and its connection and disable the out-of-network printing. Out-of-network printing simply means someone can’t email or fax a document to your printer and your printer automatically prints the document when it is received. By disabling the feature, you will be able to improve the security measures of your device immediately.

Take Additional Security Measures

There are all kinds of security measures you can take to improve the security of your printer. You will want to protect access to the printer using a firewall. You may also want to require all print jobs to enter in a PIN. This means in order to communicate with the printer; a PIN must be typed in. So, if someone externally attempts to hack the printer, they will likely need to either enter a PIN or find a way to bypass it.

Protect Your Small Business From a Printer Hack

A printer hack and a hack of any kind of IoT device can lead to serious problems within your place of business. It is no different than a hack that might siphon off information directly through your computer. For this reason, it is necessary to protect everything that connects to your office network and the Internet. It doesn’t take much to extend your network security to include everything that connects to the internet, including your printer. If you’re interested in learning more about network security and how you can protect your small business from a printer hack or other hacks in general, now is the time to contact the Charlotte IT Solutions team.