Best Practices for Printer Security

Posted on March 15, 2018 - by Darryl MacLeod - in Building Your InfoSec Program

Printer security is an easy topic to overlook in your information security program.

But don’t make that mistake at your company. The printers in your office can be an easy source for a data breach.

In addition to documents that lay unprotected in output trays, some printers can store information in memory that can be recalled or intercepted. You want to manage these devices and protect them, just like the rest of your IT infrastructure.

Secure Your Devices

Increasing the physical security of your printers can help prevent document theft or snooping, unauthorized access to stored documents, and misuse of the printer’s ethernet or USB connections. Putting them in a visible open area that is accessible to most users may be a better idea than having them in a separate room or office where you can’t effectively monitor them. Consider designating separate printers for management and other sensitive departments and keep those machines secure from other employees.

Make sure that you keep your printer’s firmware and drivers up-to-date. Often, updates add new or improved security features, patch known security holes, and fix other problems.

Secure Your Data

While printers are connected to your network and other devices, they also handle data you want to protect. Consider buying printers that require users to provide some form of identification (such as a PIN) before it prints.

How often have you gone to pick up your printout and found multiple documents in the printer tray or sitting around nearby? Anyone walking by could see or carry off these documents, creating a security risk. Holding documents in a queue until the right person comes to the printer to release and pick up their documents is a more secure procedure.

Don’t neglect hard copies of documents. Shred sensitive papers when you no longer need them.

Before disposing of an old or broken printer, make sure that its internal hard drive (if it has one) isn’t saving any documents. Check your printer’s documentation to determine whether it has a drive, and if it does, to learn how to erase the data.

Your printer can be an unexpected security liability. They often handle sensitive documents and information, and they could potentially provide an access route to other computers on the network. It’s time to take printer security seriously.

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About the author

Darryl MacLeod is an information security expert, a Certified Information Systems Security Professional, and a Certified Information Systems Auditor.