Why network printers should be secured

Networked Printers include, but are not limited to: printers, multi-function devices (MFDs), copiers, scanners, or similar devices. These devices have become more sophisticated in recent years and have advanced from simple print devices to include services such as scanning, scan-to-email, document storage and other services.  Network printers are fully-fledged networked computers that offer out-of-box easy print, scan and email of documents. Unfortunately, this ease of use is at the expense of poor security. Network printers commonly offer a web server where any user may browse to the printer where a simple web interface is available to manage the operations of the printer.  Without security changes made to the printer, it is susceptible to:

  • Disruption to printer service and re-routing of print jobs to malicious third-parties.
  • Denial-of-service (DOS) attacks. The printer may be the cause or recipient of such attacks.
  • Documents or other sensitive information stored on the printer may be accessed.

How to secure your network printer

  • Set a strong admin password:  This is the most important step to securing your network printer.  Most network printers can be managed online by browsing to the printer’s IP address using a web browser like Chrome, Edge, Firefox or Safari – just enter the IP address into the web browser’s address bar.  If the settings here aren’t password protected then it becomes easy for anyone to browse to this IP address and access the settings and data associated with the printer.  Often there is no admin password set when you buy the printer, or it is set to a weak default password, so it’s vital that you set a strong admin password.  For detailed steps on how to set this admin password you should refer to the printer manufacturer’s website to access the user guide for your printer.
  • Security settings:  Some models may include other security features, such as to require a PIN to be entered before the job will print, or to only allow scanning/photocopying after a PIN has been entered.  Refer to the printer manufacturer’s website to access the user guide for your printer to see if these features are available.
  • Physical location:  Locate the printer in a secure environment where its usage can be monitored so that only authorised people can access it.  If it must be kept in a more public area then consider if it can be physically secured via a lock or some other method.
  • Don’t leave printouts lying around:  Pick up your print jobs promptly and don’t leave uncollected printouts lying around as they may contain sensitive or confidential data.
  • Secure disposal:  If you dispose of a printer via the regular electronic waste disposal channels then the data that was stored on the printer (on the memory or hard drive) could still be accessed.  See our page on secure data disposal for more information on how to securely dispose this data.