Secure Print: How to Protect the Information at the Printer

Secure Print: How to Protect the Information at the Printer
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Data security is a trending topic these days among businesses of every size. Hackers and cybercriminals have gotten bolder than ever and no organizations are safe anymore. From government offices to hospitals and single-person startups, everyone is feeling the heat. Companies, no matter how large or small, need secure print, internet, and telecommunications infrastructure.

Despite the increased awareness and emphasis on security, there’s one blind spot which companies routinely overlook: the printers. Often situated as a central device in an office’s productivity ecosystem, all manner of sensitive and private information passes across them. Yet, employees rarely think twice about how they might be exposing the business’s most sensitive data.

Protecting information at the printer is every bit as important as protecting it on the network. Here’s why the office printer is a security risk, and how to eliminate that risk with the best practices for achieving a secure print environment.

The Printer Is a Security Risk. Here’s Why.

The printer is a security risk and one that shouldn’t be underestimated. However, it’s so commonly overlooked within offices that it inspired the FTC to issue a statement in 2017 reminding businesses to secure their digital printers and copiers. These devices represent a security risk because:

  • They have hard drives. When a computer or server sends a job to a printer, it first goes to the printer’s hard drive. It’s stored there until it’s printed. In some cases, printers come pre-configured to retain a copy of their print history. That equals sensitive company data simply sitting on a hard drive.
  • They have an internet connection. The highly connected, wirelessly integrated environment of modern offices helps businesses move faster and more smoothly. However, just like computers can talk to the printers, so can other connections – like a hacker snooping on a network.
  • Printer VPNs don’t exist. Virtual private networks (VPNs) mask the traffic to and from a computer. In theory, it should mask the traffic a computer sends to a printer. However, that doesn’t stop hackers from listening in to printer traffic as it scans or faxes to digital areas.
  • They don’t look like computers. The modern digital printer is essentially a computer, but since they don’t look or operate like one, it’s easy to forget about them.

Best Practices for Achieving a Secure Print Environment

Creating a secure print environment is one of the best things a company can do to keep its sensitive information safe. With so many different types of documents printed on a shared printer, these devices quickly become goldmines for cybercriminals seeking easy access to lucrative data. Achieve a secure print environment with these four best practices:

1. Use the Secure Print Configuration

The Secure Print configuration is found under Printer Properties in Microsoft Office on Windows, or under Output Methods in the Preset configurations on Mac. In most cases, this configuration requires users to enter a passcode before a document is printed. However, it can also be configured by the network administrator to include other security features as well.

2. Deploy Secure Printing Software

Secure printing software ensures that a print job is protected from start to finish. It may include similar functions as Secure Print, such as requiring a user to authenticate him or herself before a document gets printed. Likewise, this type of print management software can keep track of who prints what documents, from where, and when.

3. Reduce the Company’s Reliance on Printers

The easiest way to keep sensitive information off the printer is to not print it at all. Find ways to reduce the company’s reliance on printers by embracing digital solutions with robust security already in place.

4. Establish a Policy Against Abandoned Documents

Lost documents aren’t just annoying, they’re also a security risk. Even if a printer is configured not to save its job history, or a user needs to enter a passcode to print, sensitive information can still be at risk of exposure. It may end up on the wrong desk, in the wrong hands, or in the recycle bin instead of the shredder. Counter this by making sure users get into the habit of collecting their printed materials promptly.

5. Use Managed Print Services.

A managed print service provider is a smart move for companies struggling with security. Rather than trying to experiment with printer settings, contact an experienced professional who knows exactly what needs to be done to keep printers and documents safe.

Protect the Printers with Point Management

Printer security is a frequently overlooked but critical element of achieving data security in a company. With all sorts of sensitive information passing across a device shared by many, companies are at risk of having their information exposed to the wrong people. Protect private information by developing a secure print environment – it’s good for customers, employees, and business.

Point Management helps businesses develop their ideal productivity ecosystem. Contact us today to discuss the challenges in your print environment.