Is Your Fax Machine a Cybersecurity Risk?

An all-in-one fax machine and printer being used by an employee in an office.

When you think about electronic devices that might pose a cybersecurity risk due to the sensitive data that they contain, odds are you think of your computer systems and hard drives; however, it’s important not to overlook devices such as fax machines. Despite the age of their technology, fax machines continue to be in heavy use by many companies. It’s estimated that there are roughly 45 million fax machines still being used all over the world. Unfortunately, these fax machines tend to be very vulnerable to cyber-attacks.

Fax Machines are a Cybersecurity Risk

The thing is, many fax machines being used today are integrated into all-in-one printers. These printers are connected to a PSTN (public switched telephone network) phone line and a WiFi network. Anyone looking to hack into your network can do so as long as they have your fax number. They can do this by sending a specially-crafted image file through your fax in order to exploit your fax machine’s vulnerabilities and then obtain control of the network.

The most commonly employed attack using fax machines is known as a Faxploit. A faxploit involves taking advantage of two buffer overflow vulnerabilities. The first buffer overflow is triggered when parsing COM markers. The other is triggered while parsing DHT markers. Both result in remote code execution.

A faxploit is executed by faxing an image file that’s loaded with a malicious payload through the phone line. When the fax machine receives the image file, it will be automatically decoded and uploaded into its memory. Many hackers use this technique to spread ransomware since once it’s uploaded it will spread throughout the network. However, the image file can be coded with all kinds of malware, including surveillance tools and cryptocurrency miners.

It’s also worth noting that newer fax machines have hard drives that save data concerning all of the faxes that have been sent and received, many of which may contain sensitive information. Unless you have the hard drive properly destroyed, this data can be retrieved even if you attempt to delete the data on the fax machine’s hard drive.

Protecting Against Fax Machine Vulnerabilities

There are a few ways that you can protect against potential faxploits. First of all, make sure that all fax-based devices on your network have their auto-answer feature turned off. Then, make sure that you use network segmentation to prevent traffic from your fax machine or servers from reaching your general network. You can do this by configuring your routers to deny access from the fax device’s IP address or by setting up internal firewalls. You should also disconnect the phone lines from any devices with a fax feature that are not being used.

When it comes down to it, the best way to ensure your organization’s cybersecurity is by not using fax at all. If you do still rely on fax technology, then consider using an online fax service instead of an internal fax device. At the very least, use a standalone fax machine if you have to.

Finally, if you have any fax machines around the office that aren’t being used, get rid of them properly. Keeping them connected even if you’re not using them could leave your company exposed. The best way to get rid of your fax machine is by having it safely destroyed by a professional data destruction company. This ensures that any sensitive data that was saved on its hard drive cannot be retrieved. For more information about our data protection services or to request a free quote and security risk assessment, contact us at AccuShred today.