Printers pose major remote working cybersecurity risk

These days associates are logging in and putting in their hours from the comfort of home, some due to the many touted benefits of working from home — less stress, lower costs, no commute, better coffee and so on — or more recently, due to a worldwide pandemic and social distancing measures.

Thanks to advances in technology, these workers nearly have all the tools and abilities of the office at their fingertips at home — VOIP technology enabling them to make and receive business calls using their office numbers, video conferencing apps providing virtual meeting environments and VPN access providing them with the power and protection of their home office’s network infrastructure.

This is all great, but just as some video conferencing apps have been known to expose some security vulnerabilities, other technologies employed at home may pose security risks to business network infrastructures, VPN in use or not.

What is such a technology? The humble home-office printer.

The Enemy Within: Nonsecure home office printers

You see, a virtual private network is like a castle wall, protecting the network and associates from attacks from without the organization. An associate’s computer and other devices connecting to the VPN are the keep — the strongest, most fortified part of the castle.  

Once the associate connects a non-secure home office printer to the computer, still using the castle analogy, that associate has effectively uncovered and revealed to the enemy outside the walls the secret tunnel leading past the walls straight to the keep.

That battle is over and the castle has been stormed, or in other words, the network has been compromised and your organization’s data locked or stolen, as may be the case with a ransomware-type attack.

Other attacks, like this one in 2016, took control of printers and other IoT devices to launch a DDoS attack that took down a huge swath of the Internet, affecting even Amazon, Paypal, Twitter and other heavyweights.

So how do you prevent such a network breach or meddling?

How to protect your network from remote workforce printers

Here are a few actions to consider to protect your organization and your remote workforce from an attack via home connected and IoT (internet of things) devices.

Request your remote workforce to change their default passwords

Most printers and other IoT devices ship with default passwords. Bad actors knowing these defaults can use printers and connected devices to bypass protection afforded by VPNs and other measures to gain access to private networks. 

That’s why we recommend changing the password from their defaults, eliminating printers as possible entry points to your networks.

Urge your remote workers to keep their home printer firmware up-to-date

Just like other how devices and apps seemingly always need updates for various improvements and, more importantly, security, so do printers. Ask your associates to help protect your network by keeping their printers up to date.

Implement Managed Print Services and deploy with your remote workers

Not sure your remote force will follow through with your requests and change their passwords and update their devices as needed to protect your network? If not, you’re not alone. That’s one of the reasons why there is such a thing as managed printer services.

With managed print services, your office technology provider makes all the changes necessary, taking the security of your network out of the hands of your associates and putting into yours. All you need to do is to provide your remote workforces with their printers. These printers, placed under a managed print services plan, have all their security and other settings configured before deployment and will be monitored and updated remotely as needed.

No emails. No requests. No sweat. No worries. You and your associates can focus on business-related tasks — while your provider focuses on optimizing your print environment and protecting your security.

Hopefully, these tips help you keep your organization and its network safe during these days of remote work.

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About R.K. Black, Inc.

R.K. Black, Inc. is an Oklahoma City-based, family-owned leading provider of office technology solutions to small and medium-sized businesses in Oklahoma and Kansas. We specialize in everything business technology from copier, fax, printer and scanner technology to document management, onsite paper shredding services, VoIP phone systems and managed IT support to video surveillance solutions.

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