Protect your exposed printers before they start spewing ads

December 14, 20184 minute read

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What if someone tried using your printer for something sneaky, and you didn’t know it? Would you be able to figure out what was going on before any damage had been done?

Printers are often overlooked as a potential weak link in network security. Unsecured printers can pose a serious threat to your business beyond spewing random documents no one in the organization recognizes.

Here’s what you need to know about the real risks of leaving your printers unsecured against nefarious players, who can do more than just remotely send print jobs through exposed printers.

Beware: Rogue users are targeting printers

Imagine it’s a typical day at the office. You’re minding your own business, ambling down the hallway toward the break room to refill your coffee mug. As soon as you round the corner, you notice the office printer is cranking out documents that look weird. You pick up one and see it’s an ad for something random.

What on earth is happening? Did someone hack the printer?

As it turns out, this actually just happened to scores of unsuspecting office workers from Canada to the United Kingdom. They thought they were going to pick up their reports at the printer and instead found impassioned appeals to subscribe to a YouTube channel. Ridiculous printer pranks like this aren’t exactly uncommon today. In early 2017, a hacker named Stackoverflowin’ filled up 150,000 printers with goofy ASCII art and messages, like, “Your printer has been owned.”

It might be tempting to wave off such incidents as silly pranks, but that would be a mistake. As Motherboard reports, a shadowy figure is now taking advantage of the same vulnerability and hacker tools to offer an advertising service claiming the ability to push ads to hundreds of thousands of printers around the globe.

Don’t let misconfigured printers compromise your security

Printers are bona fide endpoint devices, just like your office laptops and desktop computers. You may not think of your business printers that way, though—and that’s what hackers are counting on. After all, their job is easier if there’s an unprotected entry point for them to compromise with widely available hacking tools. Once they’ve remotely accessed printers in your environment, you’ve got a potential major security threat on your hands.

After attackers have gained entry into your network via exposed printers, they can move laterally through it until they find juicier targets. While the hackers are loitering in your information systems, they may be able to exfiltrate sensitive company or client data and cause a whole ton of damage to both your business and its reputation. As soon as you figure out what happened, you’ll wish you’d double-checked those printers while you had the chance.

Protect your business from sneaky printer exploits

Fortunately, you can protect your business from rogue exploits like this in a few simple steps. The issue highlighted here isn’t a security vulnerability or issue per se—you just need to follow recommended security protocols for all printers connected to the internet. Doing so can help you prevent malicious actors from remotely accessing printers.

While you’re locking down these basics, you may want to check your potential print vulnerabilities against a more comprehensive checklist to ensure all your bases are covered. Take this free secure print analysis survey to quickly determine if your security policies are sufficient and get a detailed list for protecting your print environment over the short and long term. You can never be too safe when it comes to network security!

Printer shenanigans may seem all fun and games, but they’re actually sending a message to IT teams everywhere: It’s time to firm up your printer security. There might be much more serious risks lurking in your print environment than you may have realized. The good news is you also have a variety of powerful ways to bolster the security of your printers and, by doing so, protect your business from the sneaky threats it faces.

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