Fax machines have moved from office essential to dust collector in the space of 15 years. The development of the internet and printers outdated the fax machine quicker than most expected. Despite this, as printers are often all-in-one fax machines can still be found in the majority of offices and whilst forgotten about they can pose a big security risk.
Hackers have looked at fax machines for decades as an easy way into businesses just like yours because the technology is still very basic and insecure. Now research has emerged that image data sent by fax can let hackers into your business networks.
“Fax has no security measure built in – absolutely nothing” Security research Yaniv Balmas told the BBC. Fax data is sent with no encryptographic protections meaning anybody who can tap into phone lines can intercept any data transmitted through fax, something which has put businesses at risk for decades. The protocol for the use of fax was created in the 1980s and has not been adapted for the modern digital age.
At Check Point Research a test was run to discover the effectiveness of hacking through fax machines and they were able to gain access to every computer connected to a Hewlett Packard all in one printer by sending a fax of malicious code disguised as an image file to the printer. This then allowed the researchers access to the entire network that was connected to that printer. HP has since developed a software update for its printers however other brands may still be vulnerable.
The scary aspect of this is still how widely used fax machines are in the public sector with the NHS recently being found to have 9,000 still in service and used daily. In many countries Government agencies and banks still use fax as they are still considered as visual evidence in court; however, an email is not, this explains why some government bodies always prioritise the use of fax.
Businesses are urged to update fax devices on a secure network separate from applications that contain sensitive information. Checking for the latest updates will also help protect against flaws in fax security.