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Your wireless printer is a back door. Here are 6 smart ways to secure it.

the majority of printers are not secure, especially in home offices

Barrett Dilger

Printer Security

Everybody loves their printer, don’t they? That is, they love to hate it.

I’ve never seen a piece of equipment get so much universal hate. Fax machines and copiers would be the other candidates, but they are in the printer family so that just counts against the printer too.

Don’t get me wrong. Printers deserve it. They are the most suborn devices that always give you issues when you are pushing a deadline. Paper jams, dirty prints, and the ever-popular “out of toner.” Bonus points when it’s cyan and you just want to print black.

Office Space: We’ve been hating printers since 1999

Thankfully, as things have digitized businesses have moved more and more to paperless offices. The pesky printer isn’t needed as often. Though even if you don’t, you still need to have one around for those off moments. There are also many businesses and industries that still rely on them daily. So no, we aren’t quite free of the office printer yet. Keep the hate going.

Do you need another reason to hate your printer? They are a security risk.

If you don’t secure your printer properly, they are a back door to your network and can compromise everything.

You probably never thought of your printer that way. I guarantee you hackers have.

If you’re curious if your business is at risk because of your printer, then here are our top tips for you.

Secure your printer with these 6 tips:

  1. Change the Default Credentials
  2. Update the Firmware
  3. Use a Firewall
  4. Segregate Your Printer
  5. Disable Unused Services
  6. Turn it Off

Change the Default Credentials

Your printer has default settings and information out of the box. It allows you to adjust and configure as needed to fit your needs. All of these settings are locked behind a username and password. Manufacturers set a default for each of their products, something like “admin” and “1111”.

It’s nice and simple so customers have easy access to their new device. However, most of the time they don’t change it. Walk into any business anywhere, and I bet more often than not you can log into their printer with the default credentials. How do I know? Because we do this all the time when doing on-site assessments of businesses.

So instead of leaving the back door open for any criminal that comes along, change your default credentials to something unique. Of course, keep track of that in your password manager so you don’t lock yourself out later.

Update the Firmware

The second step is to update your firmware. Firmware is software that helps hardware run. Your printer has it for all of its configurations. Firmware gets updated frequently as improvements are made and security holes are patched.

Out of the box, your printer most likely has old firmware. It’s just the nature of manufacturing. They need to install firmware on the printer when they make it. That was months ago though, so it didn’t get updates while sitting in a box.

So update it. Get all the security patches you can. Usually, the easiest way to do so is on the manufacturers’ website. You can download updates to all firmware and then apply them to the printer from a computer on the same network.

In all honesty, if you updated the firmware once that would be a huge improvement over never. You should stay on top of it though, and check for updates periodically so your printer is always up to date.

Use a Firewall

This isn’t a printer specific tip, but rather a network security tip. Use a firewall on your network. Period. It is one of the 3 bare minimum items you should have to keep your business secure. What it will do is help keep bad guys from getting into your network, and hence to your printer. Have your firewall set up to control the inbound and outbound traffic of your printer.

Segregate Your Printer

Speaking of other devices, you can use network hardware to segregate your printer from the rest of your network. Separating the device on the network keeps criminals from breaching one device and then moving to another on the same network (because technically it’s a separate network).

Depending on what you have depends on how you would do this, but typically in a business a network switch would control all the data traffic on your network. Groups can be made, called VLANs (Virtual LAN), and can separate devices from each other. Frequently this is done with phones and computers for both quality and security purposes.

If you are in your home office, you are most likely using the modem/router combo from your ISP. Residential grade equipment can’t segregate with VLANs, but they can set up a guest network (which is a pseudo VLAN). If that’s your situation, place your printer on your guest network to keep it separate from the rest of your devices – and therefore make the network more secure. Side note: if you have other IoT (Internet of Things) devices in your home such as smart switches and lights, then place all of those on the guest network as well.

Disable Unused Services

Printers are made to have a variety of ways to connect to them. It’s all about convenience and might be one of the reasons why you chose the printer you did. If you aren’t using all the services of your printer, then shut those down. Open ports and services are just additional ways for the printer to be breached.

For instance, I have a printer with WiFi capabilities. It’s connected with an ethernet cable though. Keeping the WiFi functionality on serves me no benefit and only leaves an option for a hacker to connect to my printer. Turn services like those off to reduce the risk of being breached.

Turn it Off

Sometimes the simplest technological solutions are not technical on any level. When your printer isn’t in use, then just turn it off. Nobody can access the printer if it’s not powered on.

Sure, you’ll have to wait a few minutes for it to turn on and get ready to print. How often is that though? As I mentioned before, printing is less common today than it was in years past. Home offices are more common than they were, and statistically printers are used even less in those.

Obviously, if your office prints daily then don’t turn your printer off or it will disrupt your business. Even then though, maybe make it a habit to turn it off when the business closes. Every little thing is a protection for your business.

Need Help?

A lot of these things are simple tips you can do on your own. Some are more complex and you might not be sure how to do them, or may not have time to keep up with it. If you need any assistance, feel free to reach out. That’s what we do.