Practical Considerations for Secure Home Printing
Is a home printer a security concern?
Yes. And there are steps any home user can take to make sure they’re secure.
Many of our clients have chosen to place wireless multi-functional printers in their homes over the past months. These devices give them the ability to scan documents and have better cost-per-print value than consumer-grade printers.
What measures should you be aware of for the security of your home printers and documents?
Secure Home Wi-Fi
If you scanned the Wi-Fi networks in your neighborhood today, you'd likely find half are unsecured. Is yours one of them?
We all have devices in our homes connected to Wi-Fi, and printers are a great example of wireless devices. Those devices, if connected to unsecured Wi-Fi, are a potential avenue for hackers to take advantages of vulnerabilities in both your home network and your corporate network.
This article is not meant to claim the sky is falling. The importance of securing your at-home Wi-Fi is nothing new. What is new is the number of employees facing the need to secure their home Wi-Fi for the first time.
First and foremost, you need to securely configure your home wireless network (or Wi-Fi). This requires more than just password protecting your router.
In an office, you’d have your IT team securing your network, controlling access to printers, and encrypting data on the machines. At home, it's a different story.
The best settings to secure your home Wi-FI network include:
- Wi-Fi Protected Access II (WPA2) Security Setting
- Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) Encryption
- A Strong Wi-Fi Password
These settings will enable the highest level of security possible. We recognize you may not know how to enable those settings. What seems obvious to IT people can be brand new to someone working from home for the first time.
Your Wi-Fi provider likely has a management interface you can access to adjust security settings to their highest levels. If you’re not sure how to do that, go to your internet provider’s website and use their online knowledge base to learn. If that doesn’t help, call them for help. Loffler's IT Solutions Group is also available to help clients secure their networks.
If You Can’t Secure Wi-Fi, Disable Devices and Services You Don’t Need
As a backup rule of thumb, disable any wireless devices you do not need, at least until you can secure your Wi-Fi. The Internet of Things (IoT) has given us so many devices to secure, and some have incompatibilities to use secure options. My garage door opener is smart, for example, and is not compatible to the WPA2 security setting, so I’ve chosen to segment it off onto a separate Wi-Fi network. If you’re not able to take this security measure, simply disable the device to limit the number of exposures until you can be secure.
Encrypt Printer Hard Drives
If your printer has hard disk drive (HDD) memory, what you printing can be stored locally on the device. If that printer were to be stolen, that data would be too. The rule of thumb here is to enable any encryption settings available when you set up your home printer. If the printer doesn't have an HDD, as is the case with many consumer-grade printers, this is a low risk because nothing is being stored locally on the printer.
Securely Store and Dispose of Documents
Consider what you’re printing at home. Are there confidential documents? How are you storing and disposing of these documents? Many organizations are turning to secure electronic document storage options for their remote employees. In addition, we’ve seen an increase in the number of shredders being placed in homes for secure home disposal.
As an end user, you can’t control the systems your organizations has in place, but you can control whether you use them responsibly and follow guidelines from your employer. It’s also important to consider what documents you’ve stored locally on your computer. Is anything saved on your computer desktop that could be lost or stolen? This is never a best practice, but many do it.
Keep in mind, the time will come when it is time to return to your workplace. What happens to the documents you have scanned and printed then? How will you get anything you’ve stored locally or printed safely into the office?
The security of data and documents while working from home takes careful thought and action by at-home employees. Even if your organization offers best practices to keep everything secure, it’s your job to ensure your home Wi-Fi is secure, and that you're storing and disposing of documents responsibly.
Randy is a CISSP and Manager of the Cybersecurity and IT Consulting teams at Loffler Companies. He is currently focused on bringing his 25+ years of IT experience to bear on the development and delivery of new and enhanced security services that provide a practical approach to IT security. He enjoys long walks on the beach and never conducts online banking transactions when connected to public WiFi.