With so much to consider in the way of security, it can be all too easy to forget that the humble office printer could leave your business vulnerable to malware and hackers. According to research by the IDC in November 2015, a huge 56 per cent of companies admitted to having no security strategy in place for their printer. Worryingly, a survey conducted by the Ponemon Institute one month earlier found that 60 per cent of those surveyed had been the victim of a cyber-attack, resulting in a data breach.
In this guide, we take a look at the security risks of printers before discussing the various ways you can make sure your office printer is fully secure.
Top Printer Security Risks
There are four main security risks associated with the office printer:
If left unsecure, it’s all too easy for hackers to take control of the printer. Whether they change all of its settings, start printing random documents or scrape confidential data, there’s the potential for a lot of damage to be caused. You may also become the victim of denial-of-service (DoS) attacks.
- Virus vulnerability
It’s likely that the office printer is on the same company network as other devices in the business, which means that if your security strategy does not include your printer the entire network could be at risk of hackers and viruses. Think about how much sensitive information is stored on the network; without adequate security measures in place that data is at risk.
- Data breaches
Following on from the point above, and as found by the Ponemon Institute’s survey, data breaches are not uncommon in companies where printers are left unsecured. Without encryption, sensitive and confidential data can easily be accessed and exploited by hackers.
Many a time, printouts are simply left in the printer’s document tray. But how safe is that data? All it takes is for one of your employees to leak sensitive information found lying around.
Which departments are most at risk?
Depending on the nature of your job, it may be that you never have to print sensitive information. Printer security is something that all businesses should take into account, regardless of the industry sector you work in. In particular, sales, human resources and executive management departments are most at risk from a printer-related data breach. It’s wise therefore to heighten and strengthen security practices for printers in these departments.
Printer security measures businesses need to implement
To reduce your risk of viruses, hackers and data breaches, the following security measures should be in place for your office printer:
- Buy printers from well-established manufacturers
You may see a great deal on office printers from lesser-known manufacturers but this could lead to all sorts of security issues later down the line. It’s always safer to stick to the leading brands as they continuously work to update security software, giving you up-to-date protection.
- Buy a printer specifically designed for office use
Depending on the intended use, printers come with varying levels of security. Those designed to be used in the home often have far fewer security features than printers intended to be used in offices. Investing in a printer with more robust security could well save you from encountering a data breach.
- Make security your priority in purchasing factors
When you’re investing in a new printer, there are many factors to consider. From price and design to print capacity, only you can decide which the best fit is for your company. Top of the purchasing factor priority list however should be the number of security features. The higher the number of features, the more secure your printer and company network will be. Look for printers with manufacturer guarantees, PIN protection features and automatic hard drive wipes.
- Keep on top of security updates
As soon as a new security update becomes available, it’s wise to install it. This will help your business to stay one step ahead of hackers, who are constantly coming up with new ways to attack unsecure systems.
- Leasing? Be sure to wipe the hardware
Before handing a leased machine back, it’s vital that you wipe the hardware to prevent unwanted third parties accessing and using your confidential data. If you’re unsure how to do this, check your printer’s manual for step-by-step instructions.
- Take advantage of the cloud
Google’s Cloud Print service comes with added security. This means you can print safely from anywhere in the world with an internet connection, without leaving your data exposed to hackers.
- Individual passwords
Tired of seeing documents left in the printer tray for days before they’re claimed? You can stop this from happening by issuing a password to each of your employees for them to enter at the printer. This ensures documents are not released until the employee is stood by the printer waiting to receive them.
- Train the team
There’s little point in buying a printer with the latest security features enabled if half the office doesn’t understand how to make the most of them. For that reason, it’s a good idea to train the full team regularly. While you’re doing so, be sure the IT team is made fully aware of all of the security features so they can install them on the printer and other devices on the company network.
Looking for a new printer for your company? Browse the full range of office printers here at BT Business Direct to find the best one for your needs.