Prosys-printer-securityWhen you think of different types of security threats, printers probably aren’t high on your list. But printers do pose a serious security threat, and government agencies are taking notice. In a recent survey by the Center for Digital Government, 37 percent of government IT officials said their printers were more vulnerable than other network endpoints.

Although awareness of print security risks is up, most government agencies aren’t doing anything much about it. More than one-fifth of respondents had not conducted an assessment of print security. More than half had no cybersecurity plan at all, and fewer than half of those that did have a plan accounted for print security.

Today’s printers and multi-function devices (MFPs) retain data that must be protected in order to prevent a security breach and comply with various government and industry regulations, such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard. A visitor or disgruntled employees could physically steal a printer hard drive that holds as much information as a laptop. When the printing environment is integrated with the larger network, data is being transmitted to and from servers, computers and mobile devices. This data could be intercepted as it travels across the office, across the country or around the world.

Security measures such as two-factor authentication and encryption, which are commonplace when using other network devices and application, are rarely used to control access to the printing environment. Hackers can not only steal data from stored print jobs, which usually are not purged on a regular basis, but also change printer settings or even stop the printer from working.

Secure printing involves more than pull-printing solutions. Also called “secure release” or “follow me printing,” pull printing holds documents submitted for printing and requires user authentication at a device before the document is released. This capability is valuable because it protects data during the printing process and ensures that an authorized user will retrieve the printed document. However, truly secure printing also protects data as it travels across the network from a device to a printer.

HP recently announced that it has updated its HP Secure Managed Print Services (MPS) offering to bring a higher level of security to print environments. New services and capabilities include the implementation of print security plans by HP support technicians, ongoing risk profile updates and support from credentialed security advisors, remote management of print security governance and compliance, and enhanced tracking and reporting of print activity across multivendor print fleets.

HP print devices are now being preconfigured to enhance security out of the box. Older, less secure interfaces will be closed when printers are shipped so organizations are required to open ports and protocols to use them when deploying new printers. HP has also enhanced admin password and encryption settings for new and existing HP Enterprise printers and MFPs.

Printers require just as much attention with regards to security and compliance as any device on the network, especially for government agencies that handle sensitive data. It’s time to determine just how vulnerable your printing environment is and start taking steps to keep it secure.

by Edna Zielmanski, National SLED Relationship Manager at ProSys Information Systems