Many individuals are concerned about the possibility of their computers being hacked, but often overlook the vulnerability of their wireless printers. Printers are typically used sporadically for specific tasks such as printing tax forms or mailing labels, making them easily forgotten. However, hackers do not overlook the potential of unsecured printers as a means to gain access to a home network.
To demonstrate this point, Cybernews conducted intentional hacks on printers and successfully breached nearly 28,000 unsecured printers worldwide, achieving a success rate of 56%. Interestingly, once access was obtained, the hackers made the printers print out a guide on printer security. This raises the question of how exposed one's network is through their printer. Fortunately, there are security measures that can be implemented to better protect your network and safeguard the data on all devices.
1. Change the Default Login Credentials:
When you purchase a new printer, it often comes with default login information to facilitate the initial setup process. It is crucial to change this default information immediately. Hackers have access to a master list of default login credentials and can systematically try each one until they find a match. By creating a strong password and altering the default login information, you significantly enhance the security of your printer.
2. Keep Printer Firmware Updated:
Maintaining up-to-date firmware is essential for ensuring the security of your printer. Just like computers, software, and apps, hardware also requires updates, which often include important security patches. Unlike software updates that typically provide pop-up notifications, firmware updates are less visible. To check for firmware updates, you can use the PC manufacturer's utility app on a connected device, the printer's information panel, or the printer manufacturer's app installed on a PC.
3. Use a Network Firewall:
Deploying a network firewall is vital for monitoring network traffic and blocking suspicious activity that could grant hackers access to your network. Configure the firewall to monitor incoming and outgoing printer traffic, effectively reducing the risk of unauthorized breaches.
4. Put Your Printer on a Guest Network:
Many modern home routers offer the option to set up a guest network, which operates separately from your main network. By placing your printer on a guest network, you create an additional layer of security, making it more challenging for hackers to infiltrate your primary network. It is still possible to print from devices connected to another network, as long as the necessary configurations are in place.
5. Disable Unused Ports or Services:
Printers and other Internet of Things (IoT) devices often come with multiple connectivity options. However, it is unlikely that you will require all of these ports or services. By disabling any unnecessary ports and sharing features, you reduce the potential risk of a breach, as each enabled port becomes a potential entry point for hackers.
6. Unplug It When Not in Use:
Unlike work printers that see regular use, home printers are often utilized infrequently, with some individuals only printing once a month or a few times a year. If you are not constantly using your printer, a simple and effective way to prevent hackers from accessing it is to unplug the device. When the printer is shut down and disconnected, no remote access is possible.
7. Teach Your Family Cybersecurity Best Practices:
Your printer is just one of the many devices connected to your home Wi-Fi network. With the average number of connected devices per U.S. household reaching 22 in 2022, it is crucial for families to adopt good cybersecurity habits to ensure the security of everyone's data and prevent costly breaches and identity theft. Some fundamental best practices include:
- Always use strong passwords with a minimum length of 10-12 characters and a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols.
- Regularly update the software and firmware on all devices.
- Enable multi-factor authentication whenever possible.
- Activate device firewalls and other security features.
- Install reliable antivirus software on all devices.
- Never log in to an account through a link received via email or text.
- Learn how to identify phishing attempts and seek a second opinion before clicking on suspicious links.
- Consider getting a security checkup from a professional at least once every year or two.
Keeping your family's data secure can be a complex task. If you require assistance with implementing these security measures or ensuring the overall security of your network, do not hesitate to seek professional help.
Protecting your network and devices from potential breaches should be a top priority. By following these security tips, you can significantly enhance the security of your wireless printer and ultimately safeguard the data on all devices connected to your home network.
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