April 6, 2022
Sharing printers is much more cost-effective than supplying a personal printer for each of your employees. Unfortunately, with a shared printer, every employee can see anything that is printed. That's no small problem: according to HP, nearly 30% of documents are never picked up from the printer, meaning that sensitive information could be left for curious eyes to find more often than you'd think.Printers present a major security concern, and one that many organizations tend to overlook. Confidential memos, payroll information, and other sensitive documents left at the printer are troubling. But if you're printing information like patient or client files, a forgotten document could cause legal issues for your entire organization.
Fortunately, a great number of security solutions are available to help organizations minimize risks associated with printing. Let's explore each of these in more detail.
Secure Print Release
Secure Print Release (also known as Pull Printing or Follow Me Printing) is a fairly elegant solution to shared printers as well as human forgetfulness. With secure print release, employees are free to print a document from a computer to a networked printer. However, the document won’t begin to print until the employee goes to the printer and scans their badge, or enters a unique password or PIN. This technology is also available for multi-function devices, and ensures a confidential document won’t get picked up by a coworker, whether purposefully or by accident.
In the past, secure print release had to be implemented at the driver level. However, modern printing software offered by companies like PaperCut allows you to implement secure print release throughout an entire organization.
Hard Drive Security
By necessity, printers store information about printed documents on their hard drives. Most people getting rid of an older laptop or a smartphone would take special care to erase stored data data, but many organizations fail to do this when getting rid of a printer.
Fortunately, modern office printers will typically automate this important task, erasing documents from the hard drive immediately after they are printed. However, if you're getting rid of an older printer that doesn't have features like these, Marco can provide secure sanitization, so no data will remain on the device.
While many recent printer hacking incidents have merely forced printers to produce unauthorized documents, sophisticated hackers could potentially read every single document being sent to your printer. Therefore, your office printer should automatically encrypt all data that is sent to or from the printer, as well as any data that’s stored on its hard drive (if any). In the event that your device is hacked, your data will still be safe. If your printer doesn't have an encryption feature, printer security software can add this valuable tool.
Additional Data Loss Prevention Tools
As you safeguard your data from prying eyes outside your organization, you should also consider safeguarding it from those on the inside. In a recent study, 72% of departing employees have admitted to taking company data, and the vast majority of data loss (70%) takes place in the last three months before an employee resigns.
Modern printing technology allows your IT department to know everyone that has access to a certain device, and who printed what. If someone inside your organization is trying to use your office printer to steal data, including scanning a document to an email address, not only can you trace it, you can also prove that it happened. Of course, prevention is better still — if possible, you should limit a device's ability to scan to email or fax only to a pre-coded contact list.
What Happens When Organizations Fail to Secure Their Devices?
Any device that prints in your organization, including copiers, fax machines and the like represents a potential entryway into your network and can be vulnerable to hackers. Unfortunately, some organizations fail to take the same care with printers that they do with other linked devices. Data loss is bad for any organization, but it gets far worse if your organization has a legal obligation to safeguard its data.
For example, in 2019, Meditab Software, a company that provides services for healthcare providers, leaked patient records through its fax server. The server had no password, and none of the data was encrypted. That single lapse exposed over 6 million patient records for anyone to find. A lack of cybersecurity and proper risk management is a common HIPAA violation, as is a failure to use encryption or security safeguards.
Additionally, the US government has demonstrated it will prosecute organizations that don't protect information properly. Even if a breach is accidental, and there's no evidence that any leaked information was used to cause harm, organizations that are specifically required to safeguard data, like banks, law firms, and health care facilities, can expect heavy fines and penalties for failing to do so. Various states are also implementing stricter data privacy laws regardless of sector.
Security That Saves
Here’s a bit of good news: many modern print security tools are also cost-saving ones. Because employees will no longer be able to print documents and forget about them, organizations with secure print release also tend to save money on paper, toner, and ink. Also, because print jobs are tracked, employees won't be tempted to use the office printer to print out their 400-page novel, or 30 full-color invitations for a private party.
Know Your Printer
Each printer company has its own security policies and processes for security printing. Some companies, like Sharp, offer add-on security packages, while others, like Konica Minolta, have security measures already built into the software. Look into your printer's security printing tools which are defined in your manual or can be found online.
How to Access Security Print Features on Most Devices
For most printers, accessing the security print feature is fairly straightforward:
- Begin printing as you would a non-secure document.
- In the Print Dialog box, select Properties.
- Change the Job Type, Mode, and Output Method to Secure or Private.
- You’ll need to enter information, usually a code or password, on your computer.
- Enter this code or password again when you reach the printer.
However, as I mentioned before, secure printing software can make secure release printing automatic and mandatory throughout an entire organization.
Beyond Secure Printing
Your files are only as secure as your network, so make sure you set up proper security standards for your network as well as your printer. Wireless printing networks should be accessible only through passwords or authorized computers.
Additionally, there should be a single driver that all users will print from, so you won't have to configure individual printers. Software from PaperCut makes this easy, which is why Marco frequently recommends this solution for our clients.
Your IT department will love that they don't have to configure individual printers. Employees enjoy the flexibility to work and print from anywhere with a single badge. Your security is enhanced as users won't forget about documents left in the printer tray. And finally, you'll save money on paper, ink, and toner, and reduce wear and tear on your printing devices.
It's a rare thing that one solution presents a huge win for almost everyone in your company, which is why the secure printing market is growing so quickly, at a rate of 4.1% year on year.
Every office is different, and as cybersecurity evolves quickly to counter rising threats, solutions are changing. It's always best to ask for expert advice on where your office is doing well, and where you may have hidden vulnerabilities. A Marco printing expert will take the time to get to know your printing fleet, what they're being used for, and your organization's goals so they can make a custom recommendation.