Securing Multifunction Devices

As businesses, institutions and government entities discover the significant benefits delivered by multifunction devices (MFDs), the combination printer/copier/scanner units are gaining an increasing role in the office.

Like most technology in the workplace, MFDs have evolved to include many new features, such as the ability to wirelessly communicate with computers and smartphones and to fax and email documents through network connections. They also offer economies of scale by serving an office full of users with one machine where previously numerous devices were needed.

The same advances that have given these smart devices so much power have also introduced a host of potential security issues.

No longer are they the comparatively simple devices that required little more than a secure location and controlled access to printer and fax queues. While the printers and copiers of the past were immune to the threats of malware or cyberattacks faced by computers, servers and related equipment, today’s MFDs are not.

In many cases, the perception of these devices as “safe” has remained stagnant as the capability and complexity of MFDs has increased significantly. Today’s MFDs are built around powerful computing systems loaded with more complex applications than ever and offering connectivity through multiple access points. As such, networked MFDs can no longer be treated like dumb peripherals.

To protect confidential information from security threats, it is a priority to apply security controls consistently across an organization when installing a multifunction device (MFD). When acquiring new equipment, select an MFD that is configurable and offers built-in security features. Ask vendors about security-related features and recommendations on installation and implementation. For existing equipment, contact the vendor about equipment upgrades that include security features.

Here are some tips for securing MFDs in your organization:

  1. Configure copiers, printers and other MFDs for improved security and limit network access to systems administrators. Change the default administrator password and disable all unneeded features. Consider requiring drive encryption. If possible, configure devices with hard disks to erase files after each print, scan, copy or fax job.
  2. Develop policies and procedures that address MFD disposal. Destroy or erase internal hard drives before decommissioning the device.
  3. Work with vendors to ensure devices meet industry security standards and certifications. Many vendors offer optional data security kits.
  4. Make sure IT staff and employees are aware of the organization’s data security policies and practices.
  5. Perform firmware updates regularly.
  6. Place MFDs in secure areas if possible.