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Why hackers pose a printing threat

September 4, 2018

A new report has revealed that hackers are increasingly targeting networked printers, with at least half of report respondents saying they lost data due to a breach of printer security.

The study, cited by Booz Allen Hamilton, indicated that “of 61 percent of survey respondents who reported a data loss incident in 2016, at least 50 percent had at least one such incident linked to a printer.”

As Darkreading reveals, these security breaches included “digitally intercepted print jobs (50 percent), loss of data from printer hard disks (48 percent), mailing of documents via multifunction printers to external sources (44 percent), and printers getting hacked to gain network access (18 percent).”

“Today’s office printers are full-functional computers that have a printer, scanner, photocopier, and a fax machine, as well as an email platform with local storage, wireless networking, and an operating system,” says Nate Beach-Westmoreland, who serves as Head of Strategic Threat Intelligence for Booz Allen and authored the printer section of the firm’s new Cyber4Sight report. “Security pros need to prioritise network printers as such.”

Brian Minick, Vice President of CyberSecurity at Booz Allen, explained that “state-linked criminals believed to be out of North Korea have regularly targeted printers in their cyberattacks on banks.”

“After gaining access to a network from some other entry point, bad threat actors often disable printers as a distraction or way to cover their tracks during a broader attack that makes bank transfers to the criminal’s bank account,” Minick said.

Meanwhile, HP has launched a “bug bounty program” in collaboration with Bugcrowd, as a result of which the OEM will fork out $10,000 (€8,651) for each vulnerability uncovered in its enterprise printers.  

“We agree that, like the PC, printers have become incredibly powerful devices with increased storage and processing power,” commented Shivaun Albright, Chief Technologist of Print Security for HP. “We haven’t reached the awareness-level, though, to secure print devices and implement all the good security practices that are employed to protect PCs and other important nodes in the network.”

She went on to explain that there was “a gap today in discussions between decision makers and those implementing the technology” in addition to “mismanagement in the deployment of printers.”

In order to protect their devices from hackers, both Minick and Beach-Westmoreland urge printer vendors to “respond to vulnerabilities” by providing regular security updates and say that “enterprises need to get visibility into their printer security”, building continuous network monitoring.





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