Is Your Printer's Hard Drive Putting You at Risk?

December 15, 2020 | Advanced Office

Losing one’s data and sensitive information to a hack is frustrating enough. Losing it because of a preventable, overlooked risk is even more frustrating. However, despite Hollywood’s version of hacking involving great digital tunnels and intricate coding accomplishments, many hacks happen because of mundane weaknesses. Your office printer hard drive is one of them.

The Problem

The typical network office printer today is handling the jobs of multiple computers connected to it on a network. To manage all of this information being sent to be printed onto paper, the printer utilizes an internal hard drive to store copies of the files until they are processed. This queue allows the printer to line everything up like an assembly line in digital order and then process the items that are ready while still receiving the data for other jobs. It also allows for the prioritization of print jobs or production control. Unfortunately, if the same hard drive is not set to wipe out the material, the information printed can also be saved onto that storage unit long after it is needed by the printer. And that’s where the risk begins with print security.

Most people have no idea that a printer saves as much information as it does. And if the printer is ultimately service, upgraded, or replaced, that hard drive is sitting there uncleaned with months, maybe even years of information of your business on it.

The Solution

Fortunately, a lot of the risk presented by print security can be mitigated or prevented too. The first step is to go into the printer and change the administrative credentials or password to access the hard drive. This at least blocks any open access to the hard drive, whether physically or through the network. Second, the printer software should be patched and updated regularly. Most breaks into a network or contact point happen because the hardware is using older software with a vulnerability in it. Third, the printer should be configured so that it can only be managed by a certain network point or resources. This is done by restricted commands to a specific network router. Finally, the printer should be within your network firewall, not outside of it – a common problem when people just hook up equipment without profiling it properly.

If you think about how much you photocopy every day and what that is, securing your printer makes a lot of sense. Don’t overlook this Achilles heel; it’s a juicy target for information-grabbers.