Cybersecurity is a growing priority for startups, small-to-medium-sized businesses, and corporations across the enterprise, but there is a limited amount of talk about unsecured printers exposing data. Since 2020, cybersecurity breaches have come into focus in the media and are under constant scrutiny at the highest level of government. Cybersecurity insurance is the new business mandate to protect your bottom line. Usually, you can only start or renew your policy after eliminating vulnerabilities and investing in the latest security services and technologies.

If you’re reading this blog, you are probably already evaluating and finetuning your cybersecurity strategy. And if you haven’t honed in on one of the easiest potential access points—multifunction printers (MFPs)—you aren’t alone. Unsecured printers can give fast and easy data and network access to bad actors as one of the softest vulnerability points across businesses. And, if you work in a highly regulated industry like government, education, legal, finance, retail, nonprofit, or healthcare, your business members may be regularly scanning payment contracts or leases, personally identifiable information (PII), or Protected Health Information (PHI) with potentially unsecured printers exposing data.

Multifunction printers are popular for their ability to support businesses in accelerating and simplifying printing, customizing documents with folding, binding, and other finishing options, and saving scanned documents to network folders, email, fax, and more. The latter is the MFP capability that’s used most frequently. We scan sensitive documents to the cloud or emails constantly without thinking about it. Most business members and even some IT professionals forget or have no idea that unsecured printers cause significant collateral damage.

Why isn’t there more talk about unsecured printers exposing data?

If you’ve leased or purchased a fleet of new multifunction printers over the last few years, there are fewer cybersecurity risks. Most modern printers haveMultifunction Print Systems Regular software updates automatically built into their operating systems. When we look at unsecured printers exposing data and sensitive information, we are generally talking about more dated printers. While that may sound like a nonissue, new printers are rarely a top-of-mind business investment for nonprofits, government agencies, healthcare organizations, schools and school districts, and even retailers like car dealerships. With dipping IT budgets and inflation driving up costs, replacing multifunction printers is probably not the first thing you think of when looking at where you want to invest your tech funds.

But MFPs are still an abundant issue for IT leaders. In a recent study, Quocirca, a print industry thought leader, reported that 33% of IT decision-makers nationwide are “completely confident” that their print infrastructure is already protected against cybersecurity breaches. Meanwhile, 74% of these respondents experienced data losses because of, you guessed it, unsecured printing.

45% of American businesses leverage a Managed Service Provider for cybersecurity advice. 17% rely on Managed Print Services (MPS) organizations. And if your IT department is already out of bandwidth, like many other companies that turn to Managed Service Providers (MSPs) for Co-Managed IT Services and Imaging firms for print solutions and maintenance, a third-party partner can help keep you secure and agile.

What are the cybersecurity risks of unsecured printers exposing data?

Unsecured printers provide direct access to networks and access to data stored in the printer and on the network. These security vulnerabilities make performing regular printer audits for breach risk prevention and planning mission critical. Printer security can be more nuanced with unexpected IT complications due to multiple configurations, including remote login printers, personal printers, and network printers.

Unsecured printers exposing data

These are some of the cybersecurity risks you must assess when you evaluate your print equipment infrastructure and how it contributes to your company’s security posture:

  • Onsite Unauthorized Print Access and Abandoned Documents: In our fast-moving business environment, with employees regularly inundated by email, changing project deadlines, and back-to-back Zoom meetings, it’s not uncommon to lose some details in your workday. Understandably but also concerningly, a good portion of printed documents are left behind. Or when documents do print, they may end up mixed in with print jobs for an unintended recipient. That’s a big problem when print copies contain sensitive or confidential details. Cybersecurity awareness training can help, but having Managed Print Services can prevent unnecessary mix-ups tangling unrelated print jobs.
  • Unsecured Printer Data via MFPs: It’s easy to forget that Multifunction Printers are essentially computers, and without the proper security guardrails, unsecured printers exposing data is a very real and dangerous possibility. Unprotected data can be exposed on your cable or wireless network. If your multifunction printers are connected to a network (and they probably are), printer configuration can be altered to reroute your printing jobs. MFPs store data just like computers. If printers are used between organizations or move from one to another, temporary data that remains on the printer can potentially be exposed.
  • Mobile Device Printing is Growing Fast: With BYOD technology approaches in full swing and teams working across locations, more employees are printing directly from their smartphones. A cross-platform printing solution can safeguard your organization and data by preventing employees from using random, third-party apps to print from their phones. Printing from a grab bag of applications that may or may not be secure can create hundreds or thousands of multiple entry points ripe for hackers and data breaches.

Here’s how to protect your printers and data.

Document Management for EducationEnsuring your printers aren’t exposing your business to data breaches must be part of your overarching cybersecurity security and managed print services approaches. Unsecured printers exposing data is more common for organizations that aren’t performing regular audits or incorporating multifunction printers into their security strategy.





The good news? These best practices can help you protect your printers, data, and bottom line:

  • Ensure security audits and risk prevention strategy include printers. Your risk management strategy helps address risks, risk exposures, and events. A risk management strategy is a structured approach to mitigating risks, potential exposures and risk events, and can be used in companies of all sizes and across any industry. Effective risk management isn’t just a one-and-done set of steps. Instead, it’s an ongoing process to evaluate new and ongoing risks. Your business must continually identify, assess, manage, and monitor all vulnerability points. Make sure these audits and assessments are ongoing and include your multifunction printers and print network.
  • Limit your network printing by configuration settings. Limiting network printing with the right configurations is critical to ensuring your printers only respond to commands from your network router. By making sure the correct configurations are nailed down, you can eliminate opportunities for bad actors looking to gain access to your print network.
  • Secure your printing ports and turn off unused services. With everything on your long list of IT infrastructure management, it’s easy to forget about Managed Print Services and securing your printing ports. Turning off unused services and protocols help you mitigate unnecessary risk and eliminate more dated vulnerability points that can make easy targets for hackers.
  • Prioritize your Managed Print Services strategy for visibility. With the right Managed Print Services strategy and partner, you can unleash complete control and visibility across your print network with quick access to data and analytics. MPS make streamlining your PC and print fleet management for continuous improvement easy. Focusing on this area also increases uptime, preventing potential issues before they become painful business challenges.
  • Encrypt data across your print network environment. Just like you would safeguard your user profiles, company intranet and network, and cloud servers, it’s important to protect your data on your multifunction printers and print network at large.
  • Regularly run Manufacturer patch updates. Anytime your print manufacturer releases an update it’s essential to run it across your devices as soon as possible. These print manufacturer updates frequently include cybersecurity fixes to vulnerability points that your manufacturer has identified. Depending on how new your MFPs are, these regular updates probably run automatically. However, it’s important to know if you have to do some of the heavy lifting from your end.
  • Leverage a two-factor authentication print strategy. Having a multi-factor authentication process is the best practice for all platforms and devices and printers are no exception. Using a two-factor authentication process means users must identify themselves to collect a print job in your print queue. Your risks don’t stop at external threats and bad actors either. Internal vulnerabilities can become business issues quickly. By limiting access to digital files, you can easily restrict permissions to printed documents to approved parties to keep your business and sensitive information safe, in compliance, and at the right clearance levels.
  • Wipe your data storage drivers before retiring printers. Too many businesses forget that when they purchase a new printing fleet, they still have to wipe data from their original set. It’s key to wipe your old printers to ensure sensitive information isn’t compromised when printers arrive at their next destination. This best practice is a must for any business transitioning printers, and can help you avoid legal and regulatory risks and related fees.

Focusing on potential risks can help you prevent unsecured printers exposing data across your organizations. It’s important to assess your print environment andFruth Group Services multifunction printers to minimize dangers and support your overall cybersecurity posture. Implementing and updating the latest cybersecurity processes and best practices can be challenging since threats are constantly evolving. It can help to tap into outside knowledge at an Imaging Solutions or Managed Services Provider.

Selecting the right provider means aligning with a partner whose expertise fits any of your regulatory and compliance needs like HIPAA compliance, PCI, NIST, and OWASP. Partnering with an MSP to recommend the best possible print solutions for your business needs and maintain and service them can alleviate the burden of ongoing management from your already busy IT team. The right partner can seamlessly integrate printers into your network and secure it from internal and external threats—monitoring, managing, and protecting your entire print environment.

Print network security gets complicated. Fruth Group Imaging experts can help.

Discover a new level of print network security and control. Connect with one of Fruth Group’s imaging experts to assess your current print environment and risk management strategy. Fruth Group has more than two decades of experience in Managed Print Services. With constantly growing cybersecurity threats and rising breaches, now is the time to act.