Printer security is a big deal. According to statistics, a staggering 90 percent of enterprises report at least one instance of data loss resulting from an unsecure printing environment. Home printer users are just as much at risk as high profile businesses. Your printer could be leaving your personal data exposed for anyone with the right amount of skill and motivation to access. Here are three helpful security tips that you can put into action today to ensure your wireless multifunction printer isn’t leaving a gaping hole for hackers and would-be identity thieves to creep through.
Pull the Plug
Wireless printers can act as a gateway to your private and professional lives. Not only can the data be snatched out of the ether while in transit, but leaving an unsecured printer connected to your home or business network can serve as an unlocked back door to your entire network. One of the surest and simplest methods of shoring up network risk is to bar the door shut by not connecting your printer to a wireless local network. Taking this approach will require you to physically connect your computer to a printer via USB cable every time you want to run a print job. This is a hassle, but the benefits are obvious: Potentially sensitive information can’t be intercepted en route. The problem with this solution is that it’s not viable in professional environments where numerous employees rely on a constant printer connection for various work-related duties. It also makes it impossible to print from mobile devices, which is one of the principal selling points of contemporary wireless printers.
Get Serious About Encryption
When wireless is the only way to go, be sure to employ in-transit and at-rest encryption for the data you’re sending to the printer. Without that, the files you deliver over a wireless connection can be easily intercepted and read. This is no big risk if all you’re printing is a grocery list or a fondue recipe. On the other hand, the implications can be disastrous if you’re talking about printing out tax returns, medical insurance forms or internal business memos. The good news is you don’t have to hold a degree in computer science or have a team of IT specialists at your disposal to button up printer security. You can buy wireless printers with bonus security settings that will encrypt print jobs prior to sending them out across a Wi-Fi connection. Additionally, there are printers you can buy with internal drive encryption that will serve to protect the data that passes through its internal workings. While you’re at it, take advantage of additional security settings like passwords and automatically erasing caches that ensure no data is left stored on the printer after it’s no longer needed.
Keep Your Firmware Up to Date
A printer that works like a dream straight out of the box is a wonderful thing. But just because it’s not broken doesn’t mean it doesn’t need fixing. Bear this in mind whenever you receive notifications from a printer manufacturer about the availability of updated firmware and drivers. Often, these updates contain security patches that serve to protect your private information from identified security gaps. Take the time to update the firmware on your wireless printer. Access the printer’s settings and enable automatic updates, if that option is available. Also, don’t forget to register your printer online so that you can be notified of necessary security updates.
If you’re going to be using a wireless printer that’s connected to your Wi-Fi router, be sure to take these additional preventive security measures:
- Assign a unique name to your wireless network that’s different from the default manufacturer name. This works to make the manufacturer name less easily identifiable, making it more difficult to be hacked.
- Create a new user name and password that’s different from the stock information that comes with your wireless router, and change your passwords frequently – but remember to record the information in a secure location in the event you should forget it and need it.
- If your printer is equipped with PIN-only access, enable this feature so that only authorized personnel can use it.
- Get a printer with an encrypted hard drive. Many printer manufacturers offer printers with pre-encrypted hard drives, so be sure to check this box when shopping around.
Tackling printer security starts with recognizing that any network connected printer can be used to access and steal private information. Unfortunately, most people tend to overlook or completely forget the critical role that an unsecured wireless printer can play in a hacker’s plans. Take the necessary steps to secure your printer today, and leave yourself one less thing to worry about.