[This is a snippet of a Pharos article featured in Entrepreneur]
In November 2018, people took to Twitter to post pictures of a bizarre message regarding a YouTube popularity contest. As it turned out, thousands of internet-connected printers across multiple countries had been hacked—each delivering the same unsolicited printout urging people to subscribe and spread the word about the YouTube competition.
The hacker who claimed responsibility for the stunt said he was trying to teach people a lesson about printer security. The incident showed just how easy it can be to penetrate a modern printer. Luckily, the hacker didn’t have anything more malicious in mind.
Still, the hacker made a good point. For most people, printer security is an afterthought. These devices might be the most overlooked high-tech item in businesses today. The reality is that modern printers are powerful, network-connected devices that carry many of the same vulnerabilities and liabilities as any other network computer.
An overlooked security risk
According to a report by IBM Security and Ponemon Institute, the total cost from security breaches rose by more than 6 percent between 2017 and 2018. And that figure reflects how, for many organizations, exposure of sensitive information can be catastrophic.
Companies waking up to this danger might rush to reinforce workstation and network security but overlook other connected devices, such as printers. By default, printers are typically set up for easy access and configuration on a corporate network. This default state may be convenient, but it also leaves printers vulnerable to outsiders—and not all hacks are harmless pranks.
A poorly secured printer can actually allow hackers to view documents, steal intellectual property or other sensitive information, print anything they like or inject malware—potentially leading to even worse consequences down the road.
Fortunately, there are ways to manage your organization’s printer security risks, and one of them might surprise you: relying on cloud services. Here are three ways cloud services can help improve your information security: