Got Endpoints?


Well-known member
Got Endpoints?
Cyber-threats are coming to get you

By Noel Ward, Editor@Large

A few months back I was talking with the CTO of a company that prints and mails a couple billion bills, statements and direct mail pieces every year. I called him because I was writing a story on cyber-attacks and knew his company had ironclad security. What was fascinating to me is not what they did but that they had missed something. As at most companies, the small, shared printers in their buildings were connected to the company’s network which also linked the company’s remote facilities. Each printer was an endpoint. Which was what they had missed.

What’s an endpoint?
Endpoints, as Kaspersky, Microsoft, and Wired magazine tell it, are devices that exchange information over computer networks, devices such as computers, printers, smartphones, tablets, and servers. These are often the end of a network, hence the term “endpoint.” What’s a tad scary is that these endpoints are often overlooked and unprotected, meaning someone with the right software can use one to access an entire network. In many companies, endpoints include cheap, security-free, Walmart- and Amazon-level devices like cameras, door locks, lights, and thermostats. All are parts of the IoT, or Internet-of-Things, that are attached to a network often without input from the IT department. Each can be an open door for attackers who can use it when planting malware on parts of a network and stealing assets. The upshot of this is that a bad guy can crack your network via door locks, printers or smartphones from a laptop in your parking lot while chasing down last night’s leftover pizza with a large Monster drink. Your printing business, with 96,800 square feet, 104 customers, 94 employees, and a couple of leased Bimmers parked in reserved spots is doing well and makes a nice target.

The endpoint du jour for the caffeinated dude outside might be a printer in your accounting department. “Financial departments can be an attractive target,” affirms Canon’s Mike Betsko, Senior Director for Marketing & Solutions. It’s where intruders can access corporate and employee financial records (think bank account numbers) and make fraudulent transactions while grabbing some cash. Poking around in your financial files is only the beginning. HR is next, where one can dive into some attractive employee data. Intrusion can be subtle.

“Established employee relationships make impersonating HR a common tactic,” relates Ricoh North America’s Bob Lamendola, SVP of Technology and head of the company’s digital services center. One ploy may arrive as an email, seemingly from HR, asking employees to verify information. ‘Hi! Please help us make sure our records are up to date. Along with verifying your current address, please include your phone number [which may be a mobile].’ Responding to HR is a knee-jerk reaction and some people fall for it.

Such hits are the targeted ones. Other common ones are broader, like ransomware or denial of service attacks. Both can paralyze your business.

If your crack IT staff can’t make your endpoints impenetrable, the best remedy is bringing in an IT security specialist who can ensure your network is sealed against outside intruders. An IT security firm will ask questions, use specialized software (that sees things you can’t) to check your system, and detail the best solution for your needs. Ask business owners you know well or your chamber of commerce for recommendations about which IT firms to use. Get multiple recommendations. And by the way, don’t think you are safe or immune because you use a cloud server. While cloud servers themselves are usually well-protected against cyber-intrusion, the files you have on those distant servers can still cause trouble because malware on your system may have been saved to the cloud during the last back-up of your business files (you do back up your files, right?). Some malware may not activate until an application, computer or server restarts.

In our interconnected age your responsibility does not end with your own system. In addition to closing your own endpoints and otherwise making your network secure, make a point of talking with customers to make sure they understand the problem helps make their own systems more secure. Some customers will be willing to take a chance. Then they fire up their system one morning to find their files being held ransom until they fork over a Hundred-Large. Here’s another thing to consider: Malware in your network can potentially infect your customers’ systems. You probably don’t want this to happen.

You may be thinking that the virus protection software you installed last year will protect you. And it will—for last year’s threats. The problem is that cyber-threats are now changing monthly, if not weekly. According to, cybercriminals can penetrate more than 90% of corporate networks. Ransomware is a favorite because it’s easy to do and most victims, not wanting to go public about the intrusion, tend to pay up.

As a printer you may be able to do little more than having your system checked, closing your endpoints and other entry points, and encouraging customers to talk with an IT-security provider. This may help plug lapses you and your customers don’t know exist. But like paying quarterly taxes, you have to do it. Cybersecurity has become a part of doing business.

The key takeaway is that cyber-threats change all the time. Act now.


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