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HP report: Cyber criminals can attack company networks through unsecured printers

The report stresses the need to secure these devices along with servers and computers, as they also form an integral part of a company’s communication networks.

With cyber security threats on the rise, technology giant HP said today that hackers and other cyber criminals could utilise non-secure multi-function printers to plan attacks on enterprise networks. HP stated that criminals can very easily break into an organisation’s network through devices like printers, which are usually left unsecured, in order to steal sensitive and confidential information.

In spite of being a part of a company’s communication networks, printers are usually left out of its security framework as computers and servers are seen to be most vulnerable to attacks by the IT heads and CIOs, while other devices like printers are overlooked as a potential risk.

However, as per a recent survey, 92 per cent of companies in India have suffered security breaches resulting in financial loss and fall in goodwill, out of which, almost 60 per cent of cases have been due to a malfunctioning or unsecured printer connected to the company’s network. However, the HP study revealed that while 97 per cent of users are concerned about attacks through PCs, 77 per cent about attacks through servers and mobile devices, only 8 per cent are worried about printers being used as an entry point.

Raj Kumar Rishi, Senior Director, Printing Systems, HP India, in a PTI report said that upgrading a printer’s firmware on a regular basis is not only a must, but the failure to do so could allow hackers to break through to its system code and force it to accept malicious code to enter the system. This could then be used by them to access the computer the printer was connected to while carrying out the last print job.

He also added that in today’s world it is absolutely imperative for printer security to be included in government policy guidelines, and for printers to be acknowledged as one of the major network end points which could jeopardise a company’s security if left unsecured. Although he did not divulge additional details, Rishi mentioned that Indian banking and financial services sectors have fallen victim several times to cyber attacks through printers.

In light of these threats and risks, Rishi stated that HP has scaled up its efforts to develop better and more secure technology and products for its users. HP already has a range of security features that secure sensitive documents and prevent unauthorised access to printers.

Reports state that cyber attacks on enterprises have increased considerably in recent years, with the average cost of a data breach being roughly USD 7.7 million. Towards the beginning of this year, as many as 1.5 lakh internet-connected printers were reportedly been hacked by a secondary school student in Britain.

Photograph: Byseyhanla/Creative Commons 

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