Protecting the printer from malware

Las Vegas – Printers and photocopiers are the forgotten step-children of the IT department, according to Rick Dastin, president of Xerox’ Office Solutions Business group.

The lack of attention on the printer and photocopier has left the seemingly innocent and hidden away machines vulnerable to attack along with the rise in malware on embedded devices.

Dastin said that there are millions of printers and photocopiers, which are endpoints on a network, that are open to hacks because they all have hard drives with important data on them.

“We have seen several printers and photocopiers compromised that had confidential data like social security numbers, others with aspects of crimes, and drug lists. All that information was left on a hard disk and was harvested,” Dastin said.

Xerox came to the conclusion that it needed a security vendor to help them develop products that were more secure.

At the Focus 2012 Conference, held here, Xerox and McAfee announced the first set of multifunction printers to use McAfee Embedded Control software, a filtering method that allows only approved programs to get through.

Tom Moore, vice president of embedded security at McAfee, said most of the time the printer is overlooked as a possible threat to the organization. But, people do not know that most jobs sent to the printer may transport malware from someplace else. “People do not think of this at all and they do not realize information may be collected by someone else,” Moore said.Dastin added that there was an incident recently where a hacker put in his own firmware inside a company’s photocopier and was able to execute a lot of malware inside the firewall and it was all undetected.

The Xerox/McAfee security solution will be embedded into the multifunction device’s controller, which is the machine’s onboard computer and provides alerts and an audit trail to track and investigate the time and origin of the security threats and in some cases may even block them.

“We thought of security as building larger walls around the printer, but because IT does not manage them well we needed a proactive approach and instead of bigger locks and fences it’s more of a barking dog inside a house. So if some rogue player climbs inside the photocopier or printer he’ll see a dog, which is the McAfee Embedded Control software, and get barked at and that’s like an alert,” Dastin said.Dastin said that Xerox was open to expanding its solution provider channel to include more security focus resellers to augment its copier dealer network and its managed print services channel. He added that these McAfee/Xerox solutions are appropriate for low tech dealers as a standard device that you do not have to do anything but plug it in.

“We are set up to sell up to more advanced capabilities for those who want device management solutions. We are moving into an IT-as-a-Service model for the SMB that will be hosted. This is designed to scale so it can be used in both very simple to large complex enterprises.”Xerox devices protected and managed by McAfee Embedded Control and Management software will become available beginning in 2013, with products in the Xerox WorkCentre and ColorCube product lines.

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Paolo Del Nibletto
Paolo Del Nibletto
Editor of Computer Dealer News, covering Canada's IT channel community.

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