Forget USB keys, could your printer be your biggest security risk?

Printer trojan horseWhen thinking about the weak links in the security of your network, how often would you consider the printers in your organisation? Those innocuous white boxes do more than remind us that the paperless office is still just a dream. They represent a real security risk to your organisation  yet only 35% of IT managers are aware that they can open the corporate network to malicious attacks. In this post, thanks to a handy guide by Samsung, we will look at the main security risks associated with printers and the best ways to protect your business.

 

Printers have certainly come a long way in the last decade or so. Evolving beyond ‘just’ printers, they are now multimedia hubs with touchscreen interfaces. They can scan, copy, print, email and even fax (if you’re that way inclined). In the old days, when most printers were simply connected directly to a single machine, the most common security threat was hardcopy documents being left on the output tray (or that document later being left on a train by a careless civil servant). Today, with printers now an integral part of the network much like everything else, they open themselves up to all manner of malicious activities and security threats from within or even outside the office environment.

 

So what are the top ways in which your printer can be a security risk?
  • Control Panel access – many modern business printers have very comprehensive, Star Trek style control panels that can do everything bar making you a cup of tea. One feature of these is the ability to navigate through the file directories on the company’s network. Great for saving scans directly to the network, but if left without password access, they also open a way for someone to access files and folders that they’d otherwise be restricted access to.
  • Internal hard disks – for many years now, business printers have contained hard drives to keep a copy of every copy, scan and print job. If left unencrypted, this data runs the risk of being accessed by those who shouldn’t.
  • Output tray – ok, perhaps the most obvious security risk, but one that no amount of technology, short of a well trained paper pigeon to retrieve your documents, will ever completely get rid of. If you print a confidential document, don’t leave it on the output tray if you don’t want someone else to find it.
  • Ethernet network cable – Simply by virtue of being connected to the network, your printer becomes a potential target for hackers. The first line of defence is naturally a firewall, but the most determined hacker will find a way around that.
  • Wireless connection – wireless printing in the workplace was a pipe dream only a few years ago, but it is becoming more common. Same risks as the Ethernet network cable.
And the solution? Samsung boils it down to three recommendations. Their ‘Three Key Tenets about Information Security’:
  1. Confidentiality: Secure the access to the imaging and printing device: Protect access to the control panel by giving everyone a unique user ID and password. In industries where security is critical, you should consider biometric security features such as fingerprints.
  2. Availability: Protect the data and the digital information on the network: Protect against unauthorised network break-ins by employing an IP/MAC address filter, ensuring that only PCs with a registered IP or MAC address can access the device
  3. Integrity: Ensure confidentiality and integrity of output from the imaging and printing device: While there is little technology can do to prevent a document from landing on the output tray – after all you wanted the document printed right? There are however a few solutions that help. Confidential print applications for example can store the document on the printer’s hard drive until the user enters their password. This way the document isn’t printed until they are physically by the device. Similarly ‘pull-printing’ is another alternative, in which documents are held on the server and sent to whichever printer the person verifies themselves at. This ensures the user doesn’t have to decide on the specific printer first.
Most modern business printers support a range of security functions to help ensure your printed documents don’t fall into the wrong hands. Head on over to the website to take a look at our extensive range, including many from those helpful chaps at Samsung.

Top 3 Essential Pieces of Kit to Build Mobility into your Network

Network mobilityFor most of us the idea of being restricted to working only from our desks is an unfathomable idea. What would happen to those of us who need access to email or essential applications on the go? To those that work outside of business hours from the comfort of our own homes? In less extreme cases, many of us need to be able to access network resources when we are away from our desk in a conference room or within the office space away from our desks. As the demands for business mobility increase, more businesses are looking for long-term solutions without the bulky price tag.

With a wide range of solutions available from different vendors, businesses should focus on the ease of deployment and the cost savings provided by each solution to make the right choice. Here’s out top 3 essential pieces of kit to build mobility into your network.

Netgear are renowned for offering innovative networking products that deliver value, performance, security, and reliability, take a look at Netgear’s solution overview here.

If you would like to find out more about any of the pieces of kit in this article you can give us a ring on 0870 429 3010

Are More People Working from Home?

Working from homeA couple of years ago, the business media were saturated with stories about the benefits of remote working and the boost it can offer to your ‘work-life balance’. While technology has made remote working far easier and more accessible, working from home is still quite far from the norm, not to mention that during the recession, the term work-life balance almost certainly went out the window.

However, it does look as though the topic has returned to the media agenda with gusto. And guess what? It turns out working from home can make you more productive. This is according to a recent report by Skype, which surveyed 1,000 workers and found 56% believe home workers are more productive.

In the SMB community a similar discussion has surfaced. Last week, a debate on Bitsy identified childcare and flexible hours as the chief reasons attributed to the growing trend of working from home. In most cases, flexibility in traditional working hours was virtually non-existent and the reason why many employees left work was to start a small business from the comfort of their own homes.

It’s no secret that technology is helping to fuel the remote working revolution, home and portable computing has become more affordable than ever and Virtual Private Networks have eliminated a lot of the security concerns that used to be a barrier to home working. Office workers are becoming more at ease with the idea of a virtual office, some experts believe that this is only the beginning – the next generation of workers will be comprised of digital natives, who are comfortable with virtual entities.