Print security: The cost of complacency

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Quocirca research reveals that enterprises place a low priority on print security despite over 60% admitting that they have experienced a print-related data breach.

Any data breach can be damaging for any company, leaving it open to fines and causing damage to its reputation and undermining customer confidence. In the UK alone, the Ponemon Institute estimates that in 2013, the average organisational cost to a business suffering a data breach is now £2.04m, up from £1.75m in the previous year.

As the boundaries between personal and professional use of technology become increasingly blurred, the need for effective data security has never been greater. While many businesses look to safeguard their laptops, smartphones and tablets from external and internal threats, few pay the same strategic attention to protecting the print environment. Yet it remains a critical element of the IT infrastructure. Over 75% of enterprises in a recent Quocirca study indicating that print is critical or very important to their business activities.

The print landscape has changed dramatically over the past decade. Local single function printers have given way to the new breed of networked multifunction peripherals (MFPs). With print, fax, copy and advanced scanning capabilities, these devices have evolved to become sophisticated document capture and processing hubs.

While they have undoubtedly brought convenience and enhanced user productivity to the workplace, they also pose security risks. They have built in network connectivity, along with hard disk and memory storage, MFPs are susceptible to many of the same security vulnerabilities as any networked device.

Meanwhile, the move to a centralised MFP environment means more users are sharing devices.  Without controls, documents can be collected by unauthorised users - either accidentally or maliciously. Similarly, confidential or sensitive documents can be routed in seconds to unauthorised recipients, through scan to email, scan to file and scan to cloud storage functionality. Further controls are required as  employees print more and more direct from mobile devices.

Yet many enterprises are not taking heed. Quocirca's study revealed that just 22% place a high priority on securing their print infrastructure. While financial and professional services sector consider print security a much higher priority, counterparts in the retail, manufacturing and the public sectors lag way behind.

Such complacency is misplaced. Overall 63% admitted they have experienced a print-related data breach. An astounding 90% of public sector respondents admit to one or more paper-based data breaches.

So how can businesses minimise the risks? Fortunately thereare simple and effective approaches to protecting the print infrastructure. These methods not only enhance document security, but also promote sustainable printing practices - reducing paper wastage and costs.

1. Conduct a security assessment

For enterprises with a large and diverse printer fleet, it is advisable to use a third party provider to assess device, fleet and enterprise document security. This can evaluate all points of vulnerability across a heterogeneous fleet and provide a tailored security plan, for devices, user access and end of life/disposal. Managed print service (MPS) providers commonly offer this as part of their assessment services.

2. Protect the device.

Many MFPs come as standard with hard drive encryption and data overwrite features. Most also offer lockable and removable hard drives. Data overwriting ensures that the hard drive is clear of readable data when the device is disposed of. It works by overwriting the actual data with random and numerical characters. Residual data can be completely erased when the encrypted device and the hard disk drive are removed from the MFP.

3. Secure the network

MFP devices can make use of several protocols and communication methods to improve security. The most common way of encrypting print jobs is SSL (secure socket layer) makes it safe for sensitive documents to be printed via a wired or wireless network. Xerox, for instance, has taken MFP security a step further by including McAfee Embedded Control technology which uses application whitelisting technology to protect its devices from corrupt software and malware.

4. Control access

Implementing access controls through secure printing ensures only authorised users are able to access MFP device functionality. Also known as PIN and pull printing, print jobs can be saved electronically on the device, or on an external server, until the authorised user is ready to print them. The user provides a PIN code or uses an alternative authentication method such as a swipe card, proximity card or fingerprint. As well as printer vendor products there a range of third party products including Capella's MegaTrack, Jetmobile's SecureJet, Equitrac's Follow-You and Ringdale's FollowMe, all of which are compatible with most MFP devices.

5. Monitor and audit

Print environments are often a complex and diverse mix of products and technologies, further complicating the task of understanding what is being printed, scanned and copied where and by whom. Enterprises should use centralised print management tools to monitor and track all MFP related usage. This can either be handled in-house or through an MPS provider.

With MFPs increasingly becoming a component of document distribution, storage and management, organisations need to manage MFP security in the same way as the rest of the IT infrastructure. By using the appropriate level of security for their business needs, an organisation can ensure that it's most valuable asset--corporate data--is protected.

Read Quocirca's report A False Sense of Security

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This page contains a single entry by Louella Fernandes published on April 23, 2014 7:45 PM.

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