Print Security for Businesses: Avoiding Catastrophe for SMBs

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You might think that cyber threats are the exclusive concern of large enterprises with vast data resources. However, this assumption is deeply flawed. Your small or medium-sized business is an attractive target to hackers and bad agents, and just one cyber-attack could wipe you out. In this article, we’ll explain the cyber and print security threats, AND give you solid recommendations to protect your business. 

Understanding the Risks 

Cybersecurity incidents are not exclusive to large corporations. In fact, small businesses are often seen as easier targets due to their typically less sophisticated security measures. According to a report by the National Cyber Security Alliance, 60% of small businesses that experience a cyber-attack go out of business within six months. This statistic alone underscores the importance of implementing robust print security measures to protect your business from potential threats. 

60% of small businesses that experience a cyber attack go out of business within six months 

A Common Cybersecurity Mistake 

One of the most prevalent cybersecurity issues you might face is underestimating the resources required to secure your operations. Business leaders often fail to recognize the extent of the risks and the level of effort needed to mitigate them. This underestimation can lead to insufficient investment in cybersecurity measures, leaving businesses vulnerable to attacks. 

Phishing attacks account for 90% of all cyber breaches  

Phishing attacks, which account for 90% of all cyber breaches, are particularly problematic. These attacks exploit human error, which is a factor in 65% of security breaches. You might also frequently neglect to implement multi-factor authentication (MFA), with only 24% Using this essential security measure. 

What Could Go Wrong? 

When you neglect print security, your small business exposes itself to a variety of risks:

  • Data Breaches: Unauthorized access to print devices can lead to data breaches, exposing sensitive customer and business information.
  • Financial Losses: The costs associated with data breaches, including regulatory fines, legal fees, and remediation costs, can be overwhelming. According to Business News Daily, the average cost of a data breach for small businesses is around $200,000. 
  • Reputational Damage: Data breaches can erode customer trust and damage your business's reputation, leading to lost customers and diminished market standing.
  • Operational Disruptions: Cyber-attacks can disrupt business operations, causing downtime and loss of productivity, with downtime costs averaging $8,600 per hour. 

Examples of SMBs Hit by Print Security Breaches  

A Doctor’s Office Hacked Through the Printer 

A healthcare provider experienced a data breach when their networked printer was hacked. The attackers gained access to sensitive patient information, including medical records and personal identification details. This breach not only led to a significant monetary loss, due to fines and remediation costs, but also damaged the provider’s reputation. The breach highlighted the importance of securing all networked devices, including printers, to protect patient data.  
According to a report by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS),  healthcare organizations are expected to implement stringent security measures to protect patient information. 

Outdated Printer Firmware Wrecks a Retailer 

A local retail business suffered a data breach when cybercriminals exploited vulnerabilities of out-of-date firmware in their older printer. The attackers were able to intercept financial transactions and access customer payment information. This breach resulted in significant financial losses and a decline in customer trust. The incident underscored the need for regular firmware updates and robust print security measures to protect sensitive financial data. 

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) provides guidelines on how businesses can protect themselves from such breaches. 

A Local Law Firm Learns a Harsh Lesson 

A legal firm fell victim to a data breach when confidential legal documents were intercepted through an unsecured printer network. The breach exposed sensitive case information and client details, leading to legal repercussions and a damaged reputation. This incident emphasized the importance of encrypting data and using secure print release solutions to protect confidential information. 

Bad Habits to Avoid 

To strengthen your print security posture, you should avoid these bad habits: 

  • Using Default Passwords: Keeping default passwords on print devices makes them easy targets for attackers. Default passwords are widely known, allowing cybercriminals easy access to your network. Once inside, they can steal data or disrupt operations, leading to significant breaches and financial losses. 
  • Neglecting Firmware Updates: Outdated firmware often contains vulnerabilities that cybercriminals exploit. Regular updates patch these security flaws, enhancing device security. Ignoring updates leaves printers exposed to attacks, risking unauthorized access and data theft. 
  • Ignoring Secure Print Options: Without secure print release options, sensitive documents can be left unattended on printers – a common concern for businesses who receive many guests. This allows unauthorized access to confidential information, leading to data breaches, compliance violations, and loss of customer trust. 
  • Lack of Network Segmentation: Connecting printers to the same network as critical systems without segmentation allows attackers to move laterally once they gain access. This can lead to broader system compromises, data theft, and significant business disruptions. 
  • Inadequate Employee Training: Untrained employees may mishandle sensitive documents or fall for phishing attacks, increasing the risk of data breaches. Regular training ensures staff follow secure printing protocols, reducing the likelihood of accidental data leaks and strengthening overall security. 

Print Security: A Critical (and Often Neglected!) Part of Cybersecurity 

Print security is often overlooked but is a critical component of your overall cybersecurity strategy. Unsecured printers can serve as entry points for cyberattacks, with 59% of businesses having experienced printer-related data losses. 

Best Tips for SMBs on Print Security 

1. Implement Robust Authentication and Access Controls

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Use MFA to ensure only authorized personnel can access printing devices and sensitive documents. Combining something the user knows (password or PIN) with something the user has (smart card) or something the user is (biometric verification) significantly enhances security. According to NIST, robust authentication is critical in preventing unauthorized access.

Role-Based Access Control (RBAC): Setting permissions based on user roles ensures that employees can only access the features and documents necessary for their job functions. This minimizes the risk of unauthorized use and data breaches.

2. Keep Firmware and Software Up-to-Date

Regular Updates: Ensure all printers and multifunction devices (MFDs) are regularly updated with the latest firmware and software patches. This helps close security vulnerabilities and protects devices from new threats.

Automatic  Updates: Where possible, enable automatic updates to ensure that devices always have the latest security patches without requiring manual intervention. (TechRepublic discusses the importance of keeping firmware and software up to date.)

Managed Print: Even better, engage with a managed print provider. At FlexTG, we take managed print to a whole new level, by giving you a thorough assessment, working with you to find the perfect strategic solution for your present fleet and projected growth, and we become a single point of accountability for your entire print operation. For the busy CIO, this is welcome relief!

3. Encrypt Your Data

Data Encryption: Encrypt data both in transit and at rest to protect sensitive information from interception and unauthorized access. Using strong encryption protocols ensures that data remains secure during transmission and storage.

4. Segment Your Print Network:

Place printers on separate network segments to limit their exposure to potential threats. This practice reduces the attack surface and prevents attackers from easily moving laterally within the network if they gain access to a printer.

5. Use Firewalls and Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS):

Implement firewalls and IDS to monitor and protect the print environment from network-based attacks. These tools can help detect and prevent unauthorized access attempts.

6. Implement Secure Print Release Solutions

Secure print release solutions, such as pull printing, hold print jobs in a secure queue until the user authenticates at the printer. This prevents sensitive documents from being left unattended and ensures they are only collected by authorized individuals. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) emphasizes the importance of secure print release.

7. Monitor and Audit Print Activities

Regularly monitor print activities to detect and respond to suspicious behavior. Maintaining detailed audit logs provides a record of who accessed what documents and when, aiding in forensic investigations and compliance reporting. ZDNet discusses the importance of monitoring print activities.

8. Implement Audit Trails:

Implement audit trails to track and log all print activities. This helps in identifying potential security breaches and understanding how they occurred. The Center for Internet Security (CIS) emphasizes the importance of detailed logging.

9. Educate and Train Employees

Conduct regular security awareness training sessions to educate employees about the importance of print security and the risks associated with unsecured printing practices.

Training should cover secure print practices, data encryption, and the use of secure communication channels. Carnegie Mellon University and the University of California, Berkeley both emphasize the importance of ongoing education and training.

10. Provide Clear Guidelines

Provide employees with clear guidelines on best practices for secure printing, including how to handle sensitive documents and securely dispose of printed materials.


Developing a Roadmap for Cybersecurity

Creating a roadmap for cybersecurity involves identifying the biggest risks and gaps between your current security posture and the desired state. This roadmap should prioritize investments in security tools and practices that address the most critical vulnerabilities. Regular risk assessments and audits can help in keeping the roadmap relevant and effective. 

Your roadmap should include: 

  • Initial Assessment: A detailed evaluation of your current print security and overall cybersecurity posture.
  • Identification of Vulnerabilities: Recognizing where your most significant risks lie, including potential entry points for cybercriminals.
  • Priority Setting: Allocating resources to address the most critical vulnerabilities first.
  • Implementation of Security Measures: Rolling out the recommended security tools and practices discussed, such as MFA, EDR/AV, MPS, and regular updates.
  • Continuous Monitoring and Improvement: Keeping your security measures up to date and responsive to new threats through continuous monitoring and regular audits. 

Improving cybersecurity involves a balanced focus on people, processes, and technology. Investing in employee training is vital, as human error is a significant factor in security breaches. Implementing comprehensive security processes, such as regular audits and adherence to best practices, ensures a consistent approach to security.  

Leveraging advanced technologies, such as AI-driven threat detection and automated response systems, can provide an additional layer of protection. 

These measures not only prevent data breaches but also ensure business continuity and enhance customer trust. Investing in comprehensive print security practices is essential for safeguarding the integrity of your business operations. 

Protect Your Small Business 

Maintaining and improving cybersecurity is a continuous journey that requires dedication and proactive measures. You must stay vigilant, adapt to new threats, and invest in the right tools and training to protect your operations. By implementing comprehensive security measures, staying informed about emerging threats, and fostering a culture of cybersecurity awareness, you can protect yourself against the growing threat of cyberattacks.  

By implementing robust authentication and access controls, keeping firmware and software up to date, securing network integration, encrypting data, using secure print release solutions, monitoring print activities, educating employees, and leveraging Managed Print Services (MPS), you can protect your sensitive information and maintain compliance with regulatory standards.  

With these strategies and tools, you can build a resilient cybersecurity framework that not only protects your assets but also supports your growth and reputation. Investing in comprehensive print security and overall cybersecurity practices is essential for safeguarding the integrity of your business operations and ensuring future success. 

Let Us Help!

You cannot afford to overlook print security. The risks associated with unsecured printers are significant and can lead to severe financial, operational, and reputational damage.  

That said, we understand how overwhelming all of this can be for a small business owner. That’s why we’re here for you! Reach out to us to learn more about how we can help. 

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