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How to Protect Your MFPs from Security Breaches

Network-connected devices like multi-function (or all-in-one) printers are convenient and ubiquitous in most offices, but often they pose unique challenges to IT teams worried about potential security hazards to their networks.

This article looks at some of these vulnerabilities and explores opportunities to patch these security holes and improve overall network security.

multifunction printers

The Many Vulnerabilities of Multifunction Printers

Multifunction printers (MFPs) have several gaps in their security that can open your entire office network to a breach.

The first problem is that MFPs often store large quantities of sensitive data. Contact lists, financial reports, and other sensitive documents are automatically stored in the memory of these printers as they queue jobs. A security breach could potentially expose sensitive information you didn’t know was being stored unsafely on the device.

Second, MFPs usually have network access, often because they serve as shared printing devices for an entire floor or office. Unless you protect access to the printer through the network in the same way you would prevent computer breaches, you could leave the printer and its data open to exposure.

Another issue arises when using an open network for your MFPs that could let anyone nearby connect to the devices and compromise the data on them.

MFPs with color fax and printing options have a special vulnerability that occurs when sending color faxes as JPEG files the system cannot handle. The inability to process the large JPEG opens the MFPs' memory to vulnerability to malware, which can then spread to the rest of the network connected to the MFPs.

While this problem originally appeared in HP MFPs, other brands also have the same issue. HP has since issued a security patch, but other brands may have yet to fix the problem.

Many IT departments neglect to properly secure MFPs from security breaches, leaving them highly vulnerable to cyberattack.

printing documents

Document Dangers When Using MFPs

Not only are these devices particularly vulnerable to security breaches, but documents must pass through several potentially unprotected hazard points when sent or received through MFPs.

While delivered from the computer to the network server, an unsecured network could put an unencrypted document at risk of interception. Additionally, while in the print or fax queue on the network server, anyone with server access could pull the job from the queue almost unnoticed and obtain the information in the document. Similarly, while moving between the network server or the MFP's storage system, an unauthorized person could pull the document or view its information.

The physical hazard of anyone seeing a printed document on a fax machine or MFP output tray presents another risk. Even with a cover sheet, someone could easily remove the cover and view sensitive figures such as patient health information, credit card numbers, or social security data.

office MFP

How to Seal Security Holes for Network-Connected MFPs

  1. Keep all MFP software up to date with security patches and upgrades.  
  2. Only permit specific users to access the MFPs through password or PIN use.
  3. Ensure all data transmitted to the printer or fax undergoes encryption from the time it leaves the computer until it prints.
  4. Keep the MFPs in a secure location away from the public and unauthorized users. Keeping it locked in a staff room or similar location prevents strangers, unauthorized workers, or office visitors from seeing information on documents in the printout tray.
  5. Limit the number of MFPs in the office. The fewer devices you have, the fewer openings there will be for potential security breaches. And when discarding old devices, format their hard drives to prevent exposing the data to those who might find the electronics.

cloud document management

The Simplest Solution for Protecting Against Security Breaches

MFPs are simple and convenient devices that often go overlooked in terms of security protections.

Cloud fax services like mFax protect data by encrypting it from the computer to the server to the recipient's fax machine or computer. In fact, mFax's digital fax includes additional security features not found in MFPs or traditional fax machines – user authentication, audit trail creation, regulatory compliance, API, and full encryption of data at rest and during transit.

Even with a cloud fax service, many offices still find it necessary to integrate MFPs into their workflows.

mFax’s MFP cloud connector enables cloud fax directly from your MFP or AIO printing devices, allowing you to enhance your data security while still keeping your MFPs.

Want to try mFax free? Sign up here for a risk-free trial.