Networked printers increasingly are becoming targets of hackers as these devices often aren’t secured by enterprises.
A new study cited by Booz Allen Hamilton found that of 61% of survey respondents who reported a data loss incident in 2016, at least 50% had at least one such incident linked to a printer. The 2017 survey by Quocirca included 200 companies with more than 1,000 employees.
The security incidents included digitally intercepted print jobs (50%), loss of data from printer hard disks (48%), mailing of documents via multifunction printers to external sources (44%), and printers getting hacked to gain network access (18%).
“Today’s office printers are full-functional computers that have a printer, scanner, photocopier, and a fax machine, as well as an email platform with local storage, wireless networking, and an operating system,” says Nate Beach-Westmoreland, head of strategic threat intelligence for Booz Allen and author of the printer portion of the firm’s new Cyber4Sight report. “Security pros need to prioritize network printers as such.”
Some of the most common types of cyberattacks on printers include disabling printers for ransom and abusing insecure printers for vandalism or vigilantism.
Brian Minick, Booz Allen’s vice president of cybersecurity, says state-linked criminals believed to be out of North Korea have regularly targeted printers in their cyberattacks on banks. They disabled printers used to confirm SWIFT network transfers, for example, in the attacks on City Union Bank in India and the Bank of Bangladesh.
“After gaining access to a network from some other entry point, bad threat actors often disable printers as a distraction or way to cover their tracks during a broader attack that makes bank transfers to the criminal’s bank account,” Minick explains.
Printer giant HP recently launched a bug bounty program with Bugcrowd where it will pay up to $10,000 per vulnerability found in its enterprise printers, a move that underscores how these devices are becoming targets.
“We agree that, like the PC, printers have become incredibly powerful devices with increased storage and processing power,” says Shivaun Albright, chief technologist of print security for HP. “We haven’t reached the awareness-level, though, to secure print devices and implement all the good security practices that are employed to protect PCs and other important nodes in the network.”
There’s a gap today in discussions between decision makers and those implementing the technology, she says, as well as mismanagement in the deployment of printers. Companies leave critical ports and settings open, making it easy for attackers to remotely access the device. Albright recommends that customers work with their channel partner to leverage a managed print-services program.
Booz Allen’s Minick and Beach-Westmoreland say printer vendors need to respond to vulnerabilities the way Microsoft did when it set up Patch Tuesday for Windows systems, offering regular security updates.
Meanwhile, enterprises need to get visibility into their printer security, they say, and build continuous network monitoring into their environments in order to monitor printers the same way they do with network firewalls, switches, routers, and servers.