If you need to regularly work with printed documents, then being able to access your office printer from the Internet might well be a godsend. Just remember that a network-connected printer represents a potential security vulnerability.
While few printers can install software directly (and those that do often have a complex approval process and performance issues), vulnerabilities in printer firmware can create opportunities for cyber-criminals. There are also other potential risks, ranging from your printer being filled with unwanted spam and junk to unexpected expenditure on supplies. Alexey Polyakov, head of the global emergency response team at security software developer Kaspersky Lab, gave an interesting example at the company’s recent security summit in Malaga:
We had an experiment where we tried to find printers via the Web, and we found many of these. We could even order printer supplies for some of them.
Bottom line: if you’re not confident your Internet printing infrastructure is secure, it might be best not to set up that option. After all, you’re not going to have access to the documents until you return to the printer anyway; having to print on the spot might be simpler than cleaning up any security mess afterwards.
Disclosure: Angus Kidman travelled to Spain as a guest of Kaspersky Lab.