Despite widespread skepticism years ago, Internet of Things (IoT) has meanwhile claimed its place in many industries and is here to stay. Ever more people are discovering the infinite possibilities of IoT, including malicious parties. Always looking for easy ways to intrude, they seem to have found yet another weak spot: printers. It is high time for a one-on-one with Petrik Cuijpers of Vivenics about the real dangers and protective measures.
Is it really that serious?
“I’m afraid it is, especially in view of May 25th, 'G-day', when the GDPR comes into effect. After recent DDoS attacks, enabled by data from hacked video cameras among others, cybercriminals now seem to have set their sights on printers. Being attached to a network, they can easily open the gate to massive data, causing a data breach for personal data. It’s not so much the prints left behind on printers that may cause trouble but rather the digital data sent to and temporarily stored on them.”
Why are printers so vulnerable, with all the available security tools and all?
“There are indeed plenty of security solutions available, including patches and access control or authorisation protocols. The point however is that in many organisations, printers are not considered an IT matter. Quite often the responsibility is handed over to other departments causing poor IT maintenance. Cybercriminals are well aware of this.”
What basic measures do you suggest companies start taking?
“First of all, for control reasons, all printers within an organization need to be itemised in full detail. In larger organizations, the use of a network access controller (NAC) or asset management solution, which detects all available hardware in a network, can be of great help. Secondly, implementing so-called pull printing solutions is an effective tool to stay out of harm’s way. They allow for users to access a printer from a range of devices but first need to identify themselves before adding a print job. The authentication may include the use of a pincode or smartcard. In other cases, passwords management may need reviewing.
Driven by convenience, it is quite tempting to allocate just a handful of common passwords instead of managing hundreds or even thousands of passwords for printer maintenance. Needless to say what that can lead to. Terminate unnecessary print services like FTP access. I also recommend installing security patches immediately and optimising management protocols, preferably those using encryption such as https or SSH. Finally, network segmentation can limit the impact of cyber attacks and data breaches.