(19-Nov-10) The new features, improved connectivity, and increased complexity of today’s printers are a double-edged sword. Although networked peripherals are undoubtedly more functional and efficient (albeit more costly), allowing devices to be shared by many users, the added capability exponentially increases security risks. What were once “dumb” appliances have evolved into embedded computers, secretly hoarding everything passing through them, often unbeknownst to their owners.
The transformation of printers from glorified typewriters into multifunction devices has been enabled by a consequent explosion in their computational horsepower, with most now sporting internal hard drives for caching print jobs and faxes and embedded Web servers for system management. These features aren’t confined to central-office, refrigerator-sized behemoths, either. Most SOHO (small office/home office) printers have embedded Web management servers, and many contain image-hoarding drives, a low-cost ($100 or so), performance-improving option many buyers find appealing. This makes Sharp’s 2008 survey, which found that 60% of users are unaware that digital copiers and MFPs record copies of every job they print, even more alarming.