There May Be a Hacker Hiding in Your Printer


The latest generation of computer hackers are hitting close to home, through tools and machines you probably use every day.

No, it’s not the latest script for a sci-fi horror thriller; it’s a very real, very intimidating fact of life – hackers are everywhere, and they always seem to be one step ahead of authorities.

Take the latest Target card machine breach. Hackers got in through software supplied by a vendor to control the heating and cooling system – not the typical place you’d expect a breach in security. With today’s ever-advancing technology, companies now must search in the unlikeliest of places.

Gone are the days when hackers gained vital information via emails and sketchy employees. Now, they can obtain data – including consumer personal information – through supplier software systems as unassuming as printers, thermostats, and even online takeout menus infected with malware.

The Ponemon Institute, a security research firm, conducted a survey of more than 3,500 IT experts and found that 23 percent of security breaches were caused by third-party negligence, according to an article in the New York Times. Other experts believe this figure is much higher.

The reason? Many suppliers run older systems that are simpler to hack into. Plus, they’re actually invited behind a company’s secure firewall or network in order to keep the business running. As well, machines such as printers or thermostats are often delivered to companies with the security settings turned off – they’re literally delivered to the scene of the crime.

How do companies stay diligent in the fight against hackers? Experts agree that businesses should keep third-party systems completely apart – with separate passwords and monitoring systems – from sensitive data in their network.

A pain, yes … but the alternative is unthinkable.

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