Why Printers Are the Biggest Security Risk for Your Medical Practice

Medicus IT

By Medicus IT

Valuable financial data flows throughout medical practices every day. Digital devices are known to pose a security threat, but printing and imaging devices are often overlooked and unsecured. When medical practices gloss over these added security risks, they can suffer substantial financial consequences. 

Printer security is an increasingly pertinent issue for organizations. A 2020 study by Quocirca found that 74% of the US organizations they studied had suffered a print-related data breach in the past six months. When it comes to everyday tools like printers, it’s easy to disregard them as a security risk. However, hackers can access their operating systems to obtain the data that flows in and out daily, resulting in grim consequences for your medical practice. 

Securing the data that flows through your printing and imaging devices is crucial to protect your practice from a data breach. Let’s discuss the security risks printers pose and how you can prevent them.

How printers create risks

The average user may not realize that networked printers can have an operating system, storage, and software that hackers can use to their advantage. Here are a few ways hackers can access data through a printing device:

  • Ports: Hackers can access a printer's unsecured USB or network ports and upload malicious code to extract data.
  • Network intercepts: Hackers can intercept documents being faxed or sent with a printer as they travel to the other device.
  • Storage media: If a printer stores information on a drive or hard disk that isn’t protected, hackers can access it.
  • Firmware: If the firmware isn’t protected when starting up a printer, it could become compromised and open the device or network to an attack.
  • Physical access: Significant security risks arise when employees unknowingly leave documents in a printer and never pick them up, making it easy for them to fall into the wrong hands.

Why healthcare organizations need to secure printers

Printing security isn’t always top-of-mind for healthcare organizations. However, with access to just one printer, a hacker may be able to retrieve data across your entire network. Investing in the security of your printing devices can help you avoid costly data breaches and protect your organization from compliance violations. 

Cybersecurity threats to organizations are increasing and bring crippling financial impacts. In 2021, the average cost of a data breach in healthcare was $9.42M — up almost 30% from 2020. 

Identity theft and stolen financial information are just some of the costly ramifications of a print-related data breach. Noncompliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is an added risk of overlooking the security dangers of printers. Because printers receive, maintain, and transmit electronic health information, HIPPA requires printer security. Failure to comply with HIPPA’s privacy and security rules can result in significant financial penalties for your medical practice and a tarnished reputation.


Ways to prevent security risks with printers

Most healthcare practices aren’t sure where to start when it comes to securing their printing and imaging devices. Many are unsure if they have the proper security measures in place and how to configure them accurately.

Some actions you can take to prevent security risks with printers are:

  • Update firmware and software: Failure to keep printers up to date causes many data breaches. Update printer firmware and software immediately when updates are available to reduce security risks.
  • Take physical security measures: Remind your staff of the importance of removing documents from printers and scanners immediately following use. For an added layer of protection, you can require the user to print only when they use a PIN and are physically at the printer.
    • Close open ports: If your printer has unnecessary ports that your organization doesn’t use, close them to prevent vulnerabilities.
    • Limit Wi-Fi and Bluetooth functions: If you don’t need these functions on your printers, it’s best to disable them to prevent hacking.
  • Partner with a cybersecurity expert: Partnering with a company that can provide managed cybersecurity services is the best way to prevent any cyber attack. A cybersecurity expert will determine vulnerability points in your fleet of printing devices and quickly address specific threats.

How Medicus helps healthcare providers protect IT systems and reduce cybersecurity risks

Medicus IT provides managed IT services for healthcare organizations to mitigate security risks and help your medical practice scale safely.

Place your cybersecurity challenges in the hands of our experts at Medicus. With over 35 years of experience, we’ll uncover the vulnerability points in your IT systems and quickly enhance your organization’s security so you can focus on what’s most important to you — patient care. Our team provides proactive cybersecurity and disaster recovery solutions and stays ahead of evolving cyber threats to protect your healthcare records. 

Contact Medicus IT today to find out how our cybersecurity service can protect your medical practice.