The importance of print security

As various industries embrace digital technology and data to change the nature of their business, the profile of potential cyber risk changes as well. Before, businesses would only ensure their internal software was protected against such risk, however, many now understand that printers can be a vulnerable entry point for hackers to exploit. In this article, we discuss the common challenges businesses face in relation to cyber risk posed through their print machines and how these can be prevented effectively with the help of the print industry.

Challenges faced by organisations

It is incumbent upon organisations, to understand the security risks they face related to their printers. Irrespective of the size and nature of a business, some common vulnerabilities related to print devices that businesses should be aware of are as follows:

  1. When the firmware is not regularly updated and access credentials are easily compromised, businesses become more susceptible to a hack;
  2. When multiple print and mobile devices are connected, data can often be lost in motion. As a result, the vulnerability to access unauthorized data also increases posing greater threats to the business and its reputation;
  3. With the Internet of Things increasing, so too does the potential for a botnet’s size and power, (a number of connected devices to attack a system or steal data). Botnets can infect almost any device connected directly or wirelessly to the internet.

How can organisations prevent this? 

Once companies understand the risk they face, they require a comprehensive risk assessment strategy. There are multiple layers to print security – encompassing the device, network and the documents/information they produce. A few prevention strategies to adopt are as follows: 

  • Regularly update the operating system: upgrade the firmware and patch devices to ensure all potentials risks are mitigated. Older devices that are not patchable are a particular security risk. Consider automating the deployment of firmware updates;
  • Strengthen the process for access credentials and change passwords– regularly monitor and track the usage of the print machines. By following stringent protocols businesses can ensure that unauthorized employees cannot access the print queue or send harmful files to the device;
  • Upon setting up the office’s new printer or multifunctional device, changing the default password is imperative to securing printers.

Security training is key: businesses need to ensure all employees have undergone adequate security training on the importance of protecting or printing sensitive information and raise awareness of relevant malicious threats. All organisations must better educate and train end users on the potential security risks associated with printing.

How can the print industry help?

Given multifunctional printers are as connected as any other IT endpoint, print security must be treated as a fundamental element of the broader security strategy, print firms have devised solutions and precautionary measures to encourage the protection of all print machines.

One such solution on the market is ‘managed print services’ which allows seamless integrations between an existing IT environment and print devices with minimal disruption. Besides encouraging print security, with the introduction of such solutions, the print industry has also improved businesses in the following manner: 

  • Reduced waste: print security management and solutions have ensured that no document is printed without the relevant protocol. These include processes such as– user authentication, user analytics, secure document release, job tracking, chargeback and accounting, and rules-based printing. As print firms offer this layered approach to document security, it proves an eco-sustainable and low-cost option for SMBs;
  • Strong security measures: Print firms have enabled businesses to become more aware of the protocols in place as MPS comes in many forms, from entry level packages that wrap hardware, service and supplies based on a cost-per-page contract, to more sophisticated enterprise engagements that include document workflow. Change and continuous management are integrated into print machines, so business can monitor and track their activities;
  • Increased convenience: Solutions like the managed print services (MPS) have improved productivity within the office environment. A smart, sophisticated device which offloads itself to a server for security; it has evolved to become an integral document processing hub capable of handling print, copy, fax, scan and email.

Overall, all organisations must understand the risks faced through hardware such as printers and address them on a pro-active basis. To support this, print firms have developed print management tools which are integrated in broader IT security management tools to provide remote warning notifications for errors or unusual activity. Common measures have also been recommended for business to adopt and in turn, minimize the risk of exposing confidential information, which helps keep both company and customer information safe.


John Thompson is a Professional Services Manager at OKI Europe.

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