7 Ways to Protect Your Business Printers

Printing security is something easily forgotten. Here's how you can make your print environment more secure.

Can a hacker burn down your business by remotely setting one of your printers on fire? Researchers at Columbia University have recently proposed such a scenario, although HP quickly denied that it's possible. However, even if your printers can't be used as remote firestarters, there are many risks involved in networking a printer.

Businesses often overlook keeping the printing environment secure. Data security gets a lot of attention, and file servers provide encrypted, access controlled storage. Workstations are encrypted as well, with password and even biometric access required. Databases and even files often require a password just so you can see what's inside. Then you print that sensitive data, sending it off to a printer that may not be nearly as secure as the rest of your system.

You can avoid most networked printer problems by following the first three basic steps listed below. If you deal with highly sensitive data, then you need to go beyond those by protecting your printout at every step along its journey. HP has detailed information on how to use its products to protect your data, and other printer providers offer similar solutions as well. Regardless of the vendors you use, consider all seven of these steps to keep your businesses data secure through the printing process.

1. Unplug

If you want to avoid network printer problems, don't network your printer. Connecting directly from a PC via USB keeps your printer and your print jobs private.

2. Password

Most networked printers can be accessed remotely with a password. Change the default password! This is perhaps the most important step of all for a networked printer.

3. Firmware

When security issues are discovered, printer makers release updates to its firmware. Keep your printer firmware updated. By keeping your printer secure with a strong password, and closing any known security holes with up-to-date firmware, you'll avoid most basic network printer issues.

4. Secure Your Infrastructure

Whether you have two printers or 200, they need to be managed. Keeping passwords updated, installing the latest firmware, and securing access are just a few of the steps you can handle through remote-management software. HP's Web JetAdmin is one example, allowing you to keep tabs on all your HP printers from one workstation. You should also use firewalls to protect against outside attacks and probing, and be sure that Wi-Fi networks are secured.

5. Secure Your Data

When you send a print job, be sure that it's on a secured network. Use encryption so a print job can't be intercepted along its path. Print jobs can even be sent to an encrypted print server, and then securely "pulled" from the server when ready.

6. Secure Your Printers

Beyond changing the default password, implementing access control can protect the printer from being accessed remotely or on-site. Printers with hard drives for spooling should be encrypted. Once a job is printed, traces of it should be erased from the hard drive and from memory.

7. Secure Your Printouts

If you generate secure documents with special paper, secure trays are available to protect the media. Avoid leaving documents sitting in a printer tray. Use private printing to send your jobs to the printer, or at least send them as "manual feed". This will assure that a user must be at the printer to release the job, reducing the chance of a printout being forgotten and falling into the wrong hands.

Joseph Fieber spent 25 years as an IT pro, and has a background in computer consulting and software training. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter, or contact him through his website, JosephFieber.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags peripheralsColumbia UniversityPrintersapplicationscloud printingsoftwarecolor laser multifunction printermonochrome laser printerdata protection

More about FacebookHewlett-Packard AustraliaHP

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Joseph Fieber

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    IDG Live Webinar:The right collaboration strategy will help your business take flight

    Speakers - Mike Harris, Engineering Services Manager, Jetstar - Christopher Johnson, IT Director APAC, 20th Century Fox - Brent Maxwell, Director of Information Systems, THE ICONIC - IDG MC/Moderator Anthony Caruana

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts