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Smart printing presents “window of opportunity” to hackers

July 10, 2015

Backlit keyboardMPS software company Annodata has warned that “new areas of vulnerability” are appearing as printing and MPS become more complex.

With printers becoming “more involved” in networks, and taking on “increasingly complex functions”, Annodata stated that “smart print devices present a window of opportunity to hackers”, who can exploit “new areas of vulnerability […] which threaten the stability of the entire network”. The company states that IT departments “must address the possibility of internal and external breaches to their infrastructure” or “face costly repercussions” from the “mounting threats”.

Annodata cited figures from the UK’s Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS), which show that “data breaches have reached near-epidemic proportions” in the country. The statistics found that 93 percent of large organisations “experienced a security breach” in 2014, while 87 percent of small businesses did as well. Additionally, a “significant proportion” of the attacks were “opportunistic”, targeting areas where IT departments failed to “focus” attention.

The company’s Professional Services Technical Manager, Grant Howard, noted that “although many businesses invest a significant amount of time and resources to secure their devices and their data, too often they neglect the security posture of their network and internet-enabled printers. Printers used to be devices that just sat in the corner of the office churning out documents, but that’s just not the case today.

“The technology has advanced to such a point that they are fully integrated with the IT estate and the network, capable of performing a range of new functions, with the ability to print from mobile devices, and to scan to email, network drives, and scan to web-hosted applications. This new functionality has had a big impact on day-to-day business operations, but it has also created new risks to data security that many organisations remain unaware of. Like any other networked device, multi-functional devices (MFDs) pose an opportunity for hackers, should they choose to take it”.

He continued: “Many hackers will be able to access the entire network through tracking the metadata of printed documents, or by hacking the passcode of the MFP. Whether these breaches are caused by an attack from an unauthorised outsider, or internal factors, such as human error, systems must be put in place to resist disruption to the network.

“While IT departments are very careful when it comes to protecting breaches to devices, user accounts and other areas viewed as traditionally vulnerable, as a device integral to the whole network, the MFD should now be treated with similar levels of caution. By introducing measures such as secure release printing, organisations can effectively guard against internal threats, while bolstering firewalls, turning off unwanted protocols and ensuring each device has an appropriate passcode [which] can help protect against threats from outsiders.

“Just as burglars have the tools to break into someone’s house, hackers may be able [to] get round protocol and exploit network insecurity if they are determined enough. But to leave the front door open is asking for trouble, and not equipping your print device puts across the same message. So working with a print provider that has experience in designing and implementing secure print solutions and knows where the major vulnerabilities lie is critical.”

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