Ask any IT specialist what the most aggravating part of their job is and it probably won’t be foreign hackers or incompetent users who think they know more than they really do. No, chances are that their biggest nightmare is a little device that most of us take for granted at the office—the network printer.

Many of us are willing to do anything to get the things to do the one thing they were designed for: to print when we need them to. But that, unfortunately, has led many people to take shortcuts when it comes to setting up a network printer properly so that it is secured. Because of this, it is actually possible that your printer could be the biggest flaw in your network security system.

So what exactly are the security risks with a printer?

First and foremost, an unsecured printer can be used to send and print any document that the user wants to. On a home scale, this could include malicious individuals printing files over and over just to waste your printer ink or to send you unsolicited materials and even obscene information. But on a large scale, it can be even worse as when multiple college campuses recently had their printers inundated with racist, anti-Semitic, and homophobic fliers that were printed by the thousands. To prevent this, the first level of protection is firewalls, but even this can be tricky in a business or college setting when guests are sometimes given access to the network printer.

Another problem is with Simple Network Management Protocol, or SNMP. This allows clients to access data that has been sent to the printer through this server. Unfortunately, a savvy hacker can get into your system and request that any public data be sent to them. This can include documents (a scary proposition if your business handles confidential information including client/customer data) and even users’ passwords and login credentials. This opening also allows hackers to lurk around on the same network and see what other information they can reap from the system before they eventually tip their hands and are kicked out.

This last point also brings up another major security issue—storage caches. In order for printers to handle huge volumes of printer jobs, they have to contain equally large storage spaces for those printed documents. That means that a hacker can use ftp access to get in without a password being needed. They can then begin printing out the documents that are stored in the printer’s cache. Again, this can seriously compromise confidential information such as client data. But it also presents another hole in network security.

The printed documents can also be used to determine who printed the information, their username and email, and also the department that they work in. By using this information, hackers can construct a much higher-level hack where they try to “phish” for data by sending emails to those individuals. With inside information from the printouts, they can easily make it appear that their emails are officially from the company so the users won’t suspect that they are being infected with malware or ransomware until it is too late and the damage has been done.

It is important that you treat your network’s printer just as if it is a desktop. That means regular security updates and patches to root out vulnerabilities and determine how hackers can get access to your data. If you do not take these steps, then you print at your own risk.