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The Holiday Guide to Tech Support: Fixing the Family Printer

Filip TRUȚĂ

December 02, 2021

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The Holiday Guide to Tech Support: Fixing the Family Printer

Not many people would consider the family printer a security vulnerability in their home network. However, printers today have access to the entire home network, and even the internet. This makes them prime targets for attackers specialized in the Internet of Things (IoT). With Christmas just around the corner, let’s use this opportunity to tell our loved ones why it’s important to secure the family printer against hacks.

Let’s face it. The family printer is the last device we think of as vulnerable to hacks. While it is one of the 10 most popular IoT devices, it accounts for only 1.88% of such gadgets, so people don’t see it as a hacker magnet.

But attackers are drawn to them, sometimes to steal confidential data, but mostly as the starting point of a larger, more sophisticated attack against other devices on the same network, like your laptop. So here are some tips to deadbolt your printer and deny attackers access to your home network.

Restrict cloud printing

If your home printer can take jobs from the cloud, consider restricting the feature if you’re not using it. Any weakness in the cloud becomes a weakness in your home network, so it’s best to switch off cloud access if you’re not actively using it.

Disable UPnP on your home network

Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) is a cool thing your home router can do to allow devices to see themselves on the network. It also allows apps to “escape” the restrictions set by firewalls. On the downside, it can let devices from other networks access exposed services on your network. Historically, it has enabled hackers to deploy malware and conduct DDoS attacks (Mirai Botnet). It’s best to disable it.

Set a unique password for your printer

Printers come with password access, like most IoT devices. Default, vendor-issued passwords are easy to come by on the web. Attackers use IoT search engines like Shodan to discover vulnerable printers and launch dictionary attacks or brute-force their way in. Make sure to change the default password on the printer and set your unique, hard-to-guess alphanumeric password.

Patch the printer

Like most IoT devices, printers have a good amount of underlying software that requires regular maintenance, typically in the form of firmware updates from the vendor. Make sure to keep your printer updated with the latest updates and security patches.

Use a secured router

As we’ve stressed before, the home router is the gateway to every data packet coming in and going out, so it’s the first device attackers will target as a way to set foot in your network. Some router sellers, like our partners at Netgear, bake security right into their products. Consider opting for a smart router running Bitdefender’s IoT Security Platform, whether it’s a commercial one, or the one from your Internet Service Provider (ISP). This way, you also get valuable information about any vulnerable IoT gizmos that may be living on your home network, and it can stop attackers before they reach them.

To help you get device care over with and get back to the dinner table, cyber-security experts at Bitdefender have prepared a maintenance checklist that you can download below:

Download the printable checklist here

Stay safe!

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