Why Protecting Your Printers From Cybercrime Is A Must (And Eight Tips For Improving Printer Security)

Printing devices are often overlooked when it comes to security. But the reality is, cybercriminals can hack your printer to get confidential information. Your printer is probably the last piece of computer equipment you thought needed protection from cybercriminals. But the truth is very different.

Attackers actively try to locate the weakest links in security to gain access to and exploit valuable data. And among the weakest links is the printer.

Printers have access to your devices, network, and the Internet. This new open-access functionality makes them an ideal target for cyberattacks.

Unfortunately, many business owners overlook the importance of securing their printers and mainly focus on computers and mobile phones.

Most people still perceive printers as internal devices that serve basic functions. For this very reason, they are an easy target for cybercriminals.

Other than performing unauthorized print jobs, hackers can access confidential information as well as all connected computers and networks all through a printer.

You may also not be aware of the amount of valuable data your printer can store about you – tax files, bank details, financial records, employee information, personal information, etc. All a hacker needs to do is get into the operating system of your printer, and they can collect this sensitive data.

If you’ve just realized the importance of securing your printer, keep reading. This article shares eight tips to help you do just that.

Tip #1. Make Sure Your Printers Are Configured Correctly
Many things can make a printer vulnerable to cyber threats and security breaches. So, you want to get the basics right to ensure the attacks don’t happen to you. To start with, make sure to change the default password on your printer. Since anyone can access a printer remotely, a simple “123456” code won’t suffice.

Second, make sure you’re using your own router to print files remotely. Never connect to “Guest” networks.

Tip #2. Inspect Print Trays Regularly
This one is a no-brainer, but everyone could use it as a reminder. Make sure to check your print trays and get rid of unused pages carrying sensitive information. There’s no easier way to prevent data leaks than this.

Alternatively, you can get a shredder for your office and shred the papers you don’t want anyone to see.

Tip #3. Install Malware and Firmware Updates
Invest time and effort to ensure that your malware and firmware protection are up to date and can handle all types of hacks.

The good news is that many printers come with pre-built malware protection.

HP, for example, installs the HP “SureStart” software in their printers that monitors approaching targets when the printer is on. The software can shut down the device if an attack comes its way. This is a great way to prevent attacks from spreading further within the network.

Tip #4. Limit Access to the Network
Unprotected printers in a network are an extremely easy target for cybercriminals. Sure, businesses and offices require printers to access networks to perform remote prints. But if you can do the job by disabling the network access, make sure you do that.

If not, tweak the printer and network settings to only allow the device to take print jobs from the network you trust. This will help avoid outside interference and security breaches.

Tip #5. Update Your Printers
Updating a printer is equally as important as updating your phone to the latest software. Much in the way iOS developers look for bugs and fix them in a new update, printer manufacturers work toward known device vulnerabilities and update the software for added protection.

Look for printer updates so you can easily overcome known threats to the printer. Ideally, update your printers every quarter to get the most out of the security benefits.

Tip #6. Install a Firewall
If you run an office, chances are you already have a firewall. But in case you missed this requirement, now’s the time to do it.

Using a reliable firewall helps keep printers safe from cybercriminals. Your computers most likely come with pre-built firewalls, and all you need to do is keep them enabled. But there are also specialized firewalls for homes and offices that offer advanced security and make it virtually impossible for anyone to break in.

Tip #7. Encrypt Your Storage
Printers with shared networks can perform distance printing. And when a print job is in transit and travels from a computer to a printer, hackers can intercept the data and exploit it.

To keep this from happening, encrypt your print jobs. Also, make sure the sensitive data on your printer’s hard or internal drive is encrypted as well.

Keep in mind that when you print a document, that file is often stored as an image within the printer and makes it an easy target for hackers. It’s why you should use an encryption tool to protect your data. Luckily, many modern printers have this tool pre-built.

Tip #8. Educate Your Employees
If you work in an office, chances are you aren’t the only person using the printer. Everyone that has access to it needs to be aware of the responsibilities that come with its usage. Make sure to talk to your employees about ways to ensure both the physical and virtual safety of the printers.

Your staff should also be careful when using their mobile devices to print, as smartphones are easier to hack than standard computers. Explain to them what phishing scams are and how they can avoid being the victim.

Finally, make sure it’s clear to them how they can use confidential information in your company.

Whether you use printers in your office or at home, take a moment to see how you can enhance its security before your next printing job.

Using Wireless Printers? Here’s How to Secure Them

With some reports estimating over seven million incidents of cybercrime and online fraud occurring in 2018, it would be a mistake to discount the risks associated with using a wireless printer.

After all, any time data is transmitted wirelessly, there is a chance it could be intercepted. When you think about all the sensitive information that is printed in your company, this threat may then seem quite real.

Try the following tips to minimize the risk of a security vulnerability associated with wireless printing:

Use WPA2
This security certification program essentially password protects your print job capabilities just as you would require login credentials to access wireless internet.

By controlling access to your wireless printers, you can also monitor who is printing what and detect when someone attempts to gain unauthorized access to your systems.

Keep Security Software Updated
Many printers come with some form of built-in security, but the installed version can only be effective for so long.

Regularly check for more updated versions of your printers’ security software and install them as they become available to be protected from the latest threats.

Use Data Encryption
Just as your emails and other document sharing methods are encrypted during transmission, you should make sure your printer data is encrypted as well.

This ensures that, if the information is intercepted by a nefarious third-party, they will not be able to decode the stolen data. This is especially important for printers you use to print checks.

Train Your Staff in Printer Protocol
No matter what measures you take to secure your wireless printers, they won’t be as effective if your staff doesn’t know how to properly use equipment or keep protection programs up to date.

Provide training to your employees about safe printing practices.

These tips don’t just apply to large businesses; the threat of a security breach through wireless printing systems can affect small businesses and even individuals just as easily.

With a little forethought and effort however, you can greatly decrease these risks to be able to print without fear.

Watch Out For This Overlooked Threat In Your Business

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

With the risk of being hit by hacking, malware, and other forms of cyber-crime so high, most organizations go to great lengths (and expense) to protect their networks and infrastructure.

However, one major security risk that’s being overlooked is the printer!

All too often, print falls beyond IT teams’ field of view and is left hanging in an abyss ready and waiting for hackers to take advantage.

Here are some interesting statistics: According to research that was conducted by the Ponemon Institute, 64 percent of IT managers are suspicious that their printers have been infected with some form of malware; however, just 54% of organizations include printers in their security strategy.

With organizations placing all eyes firmly on network security, the major threats that are posed by printing devices that are directly connected to these networks are all too often completely overlooked.

So, what actions can you take to reduce the risk of print-related breaches? [Read more…]

Buying A New Printer? Here’s What To Look For

Printers are essential in day-to-day office use. Whether one is needed to create fillable forms or prepare handouts for a presentation, a printer is a valuable tool in general productivity and collaborative projects.

As such, the investment in a new printer is a big deal, and here are some of the most important things to consider when choosing one.

Black vs. Color
Monochrome printers that just use black ink or toner are usually cheaper and may be sufficient for office needs. Full color printers, however, can be used in creating eye-catching booklets, brochures, or flyers, but these are often more expensive for the initial purchase and upkeep.

Printing isn’t the only thing a printer can do. There are a host of other functions available from copying to faxing to scanning. Review what other office equipment is on hand, and that may narrow the functions needed. For instance, if the office already has a copier, then that function really isn’t necessary in a new printer.

Paper Handling Characteristics
A printer’s paper handling encompasses more than one thing. It refers to how much paper it can hold, which can be crucial for busy office settings, and also the sizes of paper it can handle. The ability to do double-sided printing or presence of an automatic document feeder are other things to consider.

Type of Connectivity
There are three primary modes of connectivity for printers – USB, Ethernet, and wireless – and a printer could have just one or all three. Nowadays, nearly all printers have USB connectivity, but Ethernet connectivity is important for wired office networks. If you want to reduce cords and use it on your wireless network, wireless connectivity is a must.

Replacement Toner/Ink Cost
The total cost of a new printer does not end with the initial purchase; the toner or ink will need periodic replacement. Often, toner and ink are far more expensive than the printer itself, so getting a good deal on the device doesn’t necessarily translate into a good deal for the long run.

It only takes a few moments to check the price of replacement toner and ink, and this can save the company a lot of money in the future.

Choosing A New Printer For Your Office

By Tech Experts Staff
When it comes to the type of printer you use for your everyday printing needs the choice seems pretty simple doesn’t it? That may not be the case at all…

With hundreds of different printers, brands, etc. the task of finding the right kind of printer that will suit your company’s needs can be more difficult than expected.

So what should be taken into consideration when looking to buy a new printer?

Some important points to consider: Size, cost, cost to maintain, type of ink, functionality needed, and finally speed.

While most everyone can agree with the statement “you get what you pay for” that tends to hold true with printers as well.

The problem with using this sentiment as your sole deciding factor when it comes to the type of printer you need is that you can end up with a printer that is WAY too big for your company and your needs.

Many different manufacturers make copy machines that are very large. For most small businesses, a large copier is overkill.

A nice Multi-Function printer will work just fine, and save you quite a bit.

So the second thing to consider is cost. Buying a printer that doesn’t cost much generally means it’s made of inferior parts and will wear out sooner than one that would have cost a bit more money.

Cost largely determines the feature set available on a printer. Take for instance Ink Jet printers versus Laser Jet printers. Ink Jet printers are much cheaper but tend to wear out long before a Laser printer would.

While considering the cost of the printer itself it would be good to consider the cost of the cartridge as well as other maintenance items.

Some higher end printers have the ability to have maintenance kits installed; the benefit to this is that these printers tend to be able to outperform cheaper printers.

Being able to replace easily worn parts keeps a printer running well for a number of years.

What type of cartridge is best or most cost effective?

This really comes down to what the printer will be used for.

For general home users using an Ink Jet printer may be fine, and cartridges for these types of printers are much cheaper as well.

If the printer is for a business or someone that does a lot of printing, then a printer that takes toner cartridges would be a better choice.Printer functionality is a huge point to consider.

What is needed by the device? Does it just need to be able to print black and white images or are color images necessary as well? Does the printer need to be able to receive faxes? Make copies?

All are valid, important questions when considering the type of printer needed.

The final point to consider is speed. If a company needs a large amount of documents printed at one time by many different users it would be a good idea to consider a printer with a high PPM (pages per minute) rate.

Still confused what would suit your needs? Give us a call and we can get you a quote on a printer that works well for your business.

Common Problems With Printers And How To Solve Them

If you have to print on any kind of regular basis, you know how frustrating printers can be. Fortunately, most printer problems are a lot simpler than they appear and are relatively easy to resolve.

Here are a few tips:

First, think about what has changed on your computer and printer since the last time you were able to use the printer. If nothing has changed, the problem should be easy to solve.

Check to see if the printer is on, you never know if someone during the day might have unplugged the printer or just turned it off.

Next, check the display on the printer if it has one. If it does not have one, then check for a status light. Usually if there is an issue, it will be blinking.

If it is blinking or there is an error code, then look in the owner’s manual which should give you a list of all the errors that occur with the printer. Most manuals will also give you a way to diagnose the problem.

A lot of printer issues are related to toner or paper and can usually be resolved very easily.

Check for obvious paper jams. There are usually a few covers that can be removed to help try to get the jam undone.

Most printer jams can be avoided if you flip through the paper before you put it in the printer. This eliminates static and clears any paper dust that might be on the paper.

If there is a toner issue, then it might be because either the cartridge is bad, low, or completely empty.

Almost all printers will give the computer user some sort of error message by either the display on the printer, status light, or the actual computer itself.

If the printer is a laser printer, then there is a toner drum that should be replaced about once a year depending on how much it is being used.

If your printout is fuzzy or faded, then this is a sure sign the drum needs replaced.

If there are no signs of issues with the printer then check the USB cable connected to the printer. Most cable problems will say the printer is offline due to connectivity issues.

Printers can be connected to a computer via USB or parallel port. Check both ends to make sure the cable is completely connected. If you have another cable, it never hurts just to swap them out to test the cable.

If you have an ink jet printer and you get smudged or blurry images, you might want to look up the utility on the printer that cleans and or aligns the print heads.

Most ink jet printers either have software that can start this process or have a setting on the printer itself that can kick start it.

If your printer produces strange characters, it’s likely that you have a printer driver problem. When a printer acts up and there are no hardware problem, the solution is often a driver issue.

A driver is a piece of software that helps the computer communicate with the printer. Drivers are updated constantly – be sure to check yours.

These are just a few problems that can happen. These should help a novice user start to troubleshoot typical problems with a printer.

Reduce Printing Costs With These Six Tech Tips

Printers are an essential part of daily business, and often, business owners struggle with ways to reduce the costs associated with printing office documents. Here are a few tips that will help keep printing costs in check.

1. Set the print quality to its lowest setting for day-to-day printing. Most printers automatically default to high-quality printing to make sure the pages come out looking good. However, these high-quality images require a lot of ink or toner which can cost you a pretty penny over the life of your printer.

For most print jobs, the lowest quality setting will work just fine.

When you need a sharper print job, you simply change the setting for that one document. How to change your printer’s settings varies depending up on the type of printer.

In Windows, go to the “Start” menu and click on “Control Panel.” Choose “Printers and Faxes,” right click on the printer you wish to change and choose “Properties.” While you’re there, set the default to black and white to save on color ink and toner too. If black and white is fine for most day-to-day print jobs, you will save you a bundle on color ink.

2. Print more on every page. This will save ink as well as paper costs. Reduce the font size in a document by a point of two In just one year, going from 12 point to 9 point type, could save 3-5 reams of paper, per user.

3. Don’t let your inkjet printer go for more than a few days without use. If it sits for long periods of time, the tiny jets in the printer cartridge can dry up causing print jobs to have white streaks. Correcting this causes a large amount of ink to be used. And for laser printer users, turn off the printer when it won’t be used for a period of  time. Keeping the printer’s fuser hot takes a lot of energy.

4. Clean your printer frequently. Faint output, unprinted lines running across the page, or streaks on your printouts can indicated clogged nozzles or a dirty printer. Check your user’s guide for the recommended cleaning procedure for your printer.

5. Refill your cartridges. You can buy kits and do this yourself or you can buy refilled cartridges. The quality is just as good as new, but the cost is much lower. Plus, you’re helping keep old cartridges out of the landfill.

6. Buy a laser or solid ink printer. Inkjet printers cost significantly more per page than laser printers. If you do a lot of printing, a laser or solid ink printer is an economical investment.

For example, this newsletter is printed on a Xerox Phaser 7400 color printer. The output is amazing, the printer is fast, and best of all, the cost per print is extremely affordable.

What About Remanufactured Toner Catridges?

Looking for a way to save money and increase use of “green” products in your business? Try using remanufactured toner cartridges, which have the same quality as new cartridges at a lower cost.

The quality of remanufactured toner cartridges has improved dramatically since they were introduced more than 20 years ago. High-quality remanufactured cartridges now undergo a process that makes them equivalent in performance, print quality and page yield to new models, and they meet all original equipment manufacturer (OEM) standards and specifications.

The current remanufacturing process requires cartridges to be disassembled and inspected to determine any problem areas. Worn components are replaced with new parts, all  sections are cleaned, and a fresh supply of toner is added before the cartridge is resealed.

The environmental benefits of using remanufactured toner cartridges include keeping non-biodegradable material out of landfills and conserving the equivalent of three quarts of oil per cartridge.

It’s important to note that it’s illegal for a laser printer manufacturer to require you to use or purchase a particular brand of cartridge. An OEM cannot void your warranty simply because you choose different brands of supplies for a piece of equipment like a printer.

Three easy Steps to get Seven Years of Hassle Free Service From Your Laser Printer

Printers – the necessary evil of every office. From paper jams and error messages, to problems like smearing, misfeeds, and ghosting, printers can really make your blood pressure rise.

Plus, it’s easy to sink thousands of dollars into maintenance and repairs. If you want to avoid common printer problems AND save yourself a small fortune on replacements and repairs, follow these 3 easy steps:

Keep It Clean
There is no faster way to gunk up a laser printer and cause printing problems than by letting it get dirty.

On a monthly basis, use compressed air to blow out the inside of the printer. Remove the toner cartridge for better access, and don’t forget to do the back if it is accessible. It also helps to take a vacuum to the outside. If you print labels or use any other type of specialty media like transparencies, use rubbing alcohol to clean the rollers inside the printer.

Do Your Maintenance
You can almost infinitely extend your printers lifespan by doing the regular maintenance suggested by the manufacturer.

This includes replacing rollers, filters, and occasionally replacing the fuser (the printer’s internal furnace.) Here’s a little money-saving secret: you only need to do this type of maintenance at 1.5 to 2 times the manufacturer’s usage recommendation.

So, if the manufacturer says to replace rollers every 100,000 pages, you really only need to do so every 150,000 to 200,000 pages.

Use a Surge Protector
Nothing will send your printer to the bone yard faster than an electrical surge caused by lightning or other issues on the power grid.

When internal components are fried, it is often cheaper to buy a new printer than it is to fix the existing one. It is easy to protect yourself with a $25 surge protector. DO NOT plug a laser printer into a UPS or other battery backup system. The printer’s power draw is too much for a battery to handle.