Printing Security Risks: Top 10 Biggest Threats to AEC Cybersecurity

As the AEC industry increasingly embraces digitisation and has started depending more on wireless networks and printers, companies must be aware of the most significant network security risks. We've identified the most frequent cybersecurity threats AEC professionals face, along with several methods to improve printing security.

Take a moment to learn about the top ten most worrisome printing security breaches your AEC firm may face — where even a single attack could leave your company struggling to recover.

What Cybersecurity Threats and Printing Security Risks Does the AEC Industry Face?


By installing malicious software onto company servers, criminals gain control of, or otherwise manipulate, network printer data. The malware can steal passwords, confidential data, or other digital resources, often without being detected until after the damage is done.


Ransomware can cripple AEC projects, as they force entire organisations to lose control of critical data. Hackers then extort money with the promise (untrustworthy as it is) of restoring the data.


Scammers lure victims into sending data through counterfeit websites, pop-up windows, or even finely crafted emails. Seemingly urgent or innocuous conversations could be attempts at gaining sensitive company information.

Social Engineering Attacks

Similar to phishing, social engineers feign an emergency or impersonate key figures, like network administrators, company authority figures, or banks. Phishers rely on disrupting the otherwise clear judgement of their target and then extracting sensitive data from the AEC firm.

How Are Cyberattacks Typically Conducted?

Breaching the Company Network

When cybercriminals gain unauthorised access to an unsecured printing network, they can access and control critical network data or the equipment itself.

Password Cracking

Hackers often attempt to decipher passwords using computational algorithms, capturing data packets, or bypassing password authentication procedures.

Insider and Third Party Threats

Third-party vendors that AEC companies entrust to provide essential services could intercept and use data to their own ends, especially when it's unencrypted. It's also possible for those with proper network authorisation to use the network for malicious purposes.

How Do These Threats Affect AEC Firms?

Compromising Sensitive Information

Stakeholders depend on AEC companies to ensure data related to physical and financial security doesn't fall into the wrong hands. When it does, it weakens the firm's ability to properly complete the project and damages its reputation.

Compromising Intellectual Property

AEC firms work with a huge amount of proprietary information, including patents, blueprints, and other intellectual properties. This presents many printing security risks.

Damage to Reputation

Even if printing security risks don't lead to specific problems, network breaches give investors, business partners, and other stakeholders hesitancy about the company's brand.

What Are the 10 Greatest AEC Cybersecurity Printing Risks?

In no particular order, our partners in the large-format printing industry have encountered the following ten printing security threats most often.

2. Documentation Theft

1. Loss of Control Over What to Print

Cyberattacks can hijack printing functions, potentially through any variety of networked printing devices.

Gravity of the Impact on AEC Firms

Loss of control over your print network can shut down business operations until the cause is identified and resolved.

Large AEC firms, in particular, possess data that's very lucrative to cybercriminals, who can sell the data to a company's rivals or interfere with the original company's operations.

Gravity of the Impact on AEC Firms

Depending on the sensitive nature of the documents, thefts could range from small revenue losses to irreversible damage.

3. Denial of Service (DoS)

These attacks essentially lock authorised users out of their own printing network, making the equipment inaccessible.

Gravity of the Impact on AEC Firms

A DoS can render highly valuable business equipment unusable. The aftereffects of these printing security risks can cause major print job transmission glitches, which are hard to resolve even after a DoS attack is thwarted.

4. Unauthorised Access to Print Files

Hackers don't actually even need to target equipment to disrupt operations — corrupting the print files alone is all it takes.

Gravity of the Impact on AEC Firms

Aside from shutting down operations, AEC firms may be forced to scrutinise every print file's integrity.

5. Unauthorised Changes to Printer Settings

Printers can be adjusted according to the whims of hackers who successfully breach printer networks.

Gravity of the Impact on AEC Firms

Large-format printers, and especially plotters, frequently require highly nuanced custom settings. Restoring lost settings often requires additional time to reset and recalibrate the equipment, which could also waste valuable materials.

6. Compromised Printer

To demonstrate printer network vulnerability, one cybersecurity company hacked nearly 28,000 printers. Their aim? To force companies to print a short guide about printer security.

Gravity of the Impact on AEC Firms

Trade secrets and high-value equipment are needlessly left vulnerable. Furthermore, efficiency may grind to a halt any time a breach is even suspected.

7. Making Private Printing Data Public

Hackers pulling private data out into the open can leave critical public infrastructure open to vandalism or worse.

Gravity of the Impact on AEC Firms

This is a major pain point in the AEC field. Enormous sums can be forfeited on lost trade secrets, patents, or legally sensitive information.

8. Wireless Printers Being Hacked

Wireless printers allow hackers to gain remote access without necessarily needing access to networks on the premises.

Gravity of the Impact on AEC Firms

System administrators must often manage separate networks for their printing equipment, apart from the company's computers and other networking devices.

9. Risk of Cloud Printing

Cloud-networked printers provide extremely resource-efficient printing solutions, but they extend printing security risks to just about anywhere with internet access.

Gravity of the Impact on AEC Firms

For all but 100% on-site networks, zero-trust network access becomes much more essential to protect network boundaries.

10. Risk of Cross-Platform Printing (Mobile)

Opening network accessibility to a wider variety of devices also raises the potential sources of attack.

Gravity of the Impact on AEC Firms

Printers must be adjusted to prevent unwanted signal broadcasting. This helps secure printing networks from not only computers but also phones, tablets, and third-party service providers (such as unified communications as a service).

How to Prevent, Manage, and Mitigate Cyberattacks in the AEC Industry

Regularly Update Printer Firmware

Fully updated printers and computers are much less vulnerable to publicly known security vulnerabilities and zero-day attacks. Auto-updates may be in your best interests.

Encrypt All Printing Data

Encryption proves to be a reliable, still-unbroken way to keep data secure even if it falls into the wrong hands. For maximum security, use 256-bit AES encryption whenever possible.

Deploy a Firewall

A firewall is essential to differentiate between known and unknown network access requests. They can also automatically notify and/or manage unauthorised access attempts.

Use Strong, Complex Passwords to Secure Printing Systems

Simple passwords are susceptible to "brute force" attacks, where hackers use raw processing power until they land at the correct key combination. Complex passwords dramatically increase the number of possibilities, making such attacks less likely to succeed.

Use Multi-Factor Authentication

Any authorised user should be asked to verify their credentials using two separate methods. This is particularly useful with cloud print security risks.

Regularise Employee Cybersecurity Training

No amount of technical prowess will fulfill all print security needs. Confer with IT security experts about the most effective way to train your employees in proper operational security. Also, make sure all staff members are aware of the security risks they face and how to overcome them.

Secure All Print Content Storage and Jobs in Transit

This entails implementing end-to-end encryption to secure print jobs sent over the network.

Create Backup Redundancies of Print Data (Offsite)

What will you do if a cyberattack is successful? Especially for firms using cloud print, security risks can make an entire printer network's integrity uncertain. Reduce downtime with efficient offsite backup routines. You can then reboot the network to an earlier, known-secure setting.

Segregate Your Print Network to Isolate Any Cyberattacks (But Keep It Limited to One For Printing)

Consider running printers through a separate virtual local area network (VLAN) from your regular network. This will reduce the amount of data needlessly broadcast by the printing equipment and provide another layer of protection.

Reach Out to HP to Find Out More About Printing Security Risks

Printing security risks can be particularly damaging to AEC professionals, whose work entails trade secrets and data related to critical public infrastructure. While improving cybersecurity from a technical standpoint is the responsibility of an AEC firm's IT department, security threats could target any employee.

Inform your team about cybersecurity risks, and ensure your company and its stakeholders are protected by improving cybersecurity practices. Contact an HP sales expert for assistance establishing stronger technical foundations — and discover secure printing, only with HP Virtual Booth.

Download our eBook now and discover how innovation is streamlining workflows, producing prints of unmatched quality and increasing IT efficiency like never before.

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