Editorial Insights
Data Security

Hackers Just Found a Back Door Through Your Dusty Fax Machine


Image ©: Firewalls Don’t Stop Dragons

How’s this for #TBT (Throwback Thursday): a virus for your fax machine?

Cyberattacks have become a business norm—or at least the guarding against them. But as we tighten security, hackers start looking at other ways into your network. It just so happens that these researchers found a back door from decades past to let them into an entire mainframe previously thought to be secure. So, what does that mean for your network?

Security is only as good as the weakest link

No matter what protocols you have going for you, if you leave a door open, the game is up. It may just be a matter of time, but hackers will find the opening. At first glance, fax machines from the 90s seem too clunky and antique to really be a threat. But what those researchers discovered is that anything with access to your network can fall prey to malicious code.

The truth is, this shouldn’t really be that shocking. Fax capabilities are still a feature on most office printers on the market today. And when attached to the network, it pays to remember that they are live to receive signals from the outside world. This includes the devices you might think are only connected to your office’s intranet. Because, unless it’s designed specifically to be isolated, no network is an island.

However, seeing this vulnerability reminds us that cyberattacks are completely dependent on entry points. And most entry points will have been dealt with by your typical security plans, but not all—especially those hardline points. Spyware is great at guarding what it recognizes as an entry point, but that doesn’t usually include connected accessories that predate the internet.

It is clear, then, that every connection to the network is a vulnerability. Gartner, a world-leader in business IT, urges users of IoT to scrutinize the connection points as your best way of securing a network—regardless of how that connection is made.

But there is one more way hackers can gain entry that is just as surprising as fax machines.

When the network goes a-roaming

Data security is about securing connection points so as to avoid a breach. However, since data is so fluid, another way companies experience a breach is through mislaid data drives. Last year Heathrow Airport felt the burn of this same problem just before the Queen was scheduled to use their services. But thumb drives aren’t the only data that could be physically relocated.

If your ITAM program doesn’t have a water-tight data-security plan, then your hard drives could wind up across the ocean and in someone else’s hands. In this way, it pays to be more sustainable with your ITAM program. Having a sustainable outlook means reuse happens through refurbishment, a process of wiping 100% of the data to reinstall an operating system. Without a sustainable mindset, your ITAM partner will likely take the first opportunity to recycle your hard drive—even if that means skipping data erasure.

As a company looking to truly secure your data, look at ALL the ways signals come in and out of your business—not just the ones your spyware sees. And when security measures have been taken, ensure they remain in place. As we’ve explained before, many excellent security measures get taken down by employees simply trying to be more efficient.


Concerned about your company’s data security after your devices are shipped off? Take a look at our security protocols and see what sustainable ITAM can do—safely and securely—for your business.

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