Data leaks can be detrimental to modern business, damaging strategy, putting customers at risk, or putting employees at risk. Many organizations spend a great deal on cyber security and data-protection with the intent of reducing risk, but many leave out one of the largest culprits of data leaks, the office printer.

Print security is increasingly important as printers move into the digital age. Modern printers are hackable, can be remote-accessed, and leave security risks in the form of unauthorized access to print-files, filled print-trays, and even data ports.

Taking steps to implement security standards for printers across your organization is important for reducing the risk of a data leak. It may also be crucial for security compliance across industries including health and finance. The following steps will walk you through how to integrate security standards for your business.

Assess and Analyze Needs

The first step to implementing better print security standards is to simply analyze your current print needs, security presence, and options. This means reviewing how many printers you have, what security they have, what risks they have, who can access them, who needs to access them, and how sensitive print-files are. You can do this yourself, or work through a managed print service (MPS) vendor, who will provide a risk-assessment and printer analysis as part of initial implementation.

Integrating Access Management

Printer access management is crucial to risk-management compliance in several industries but is useful across many. Here, you implement user-management and access management to printers and print queues, preventing individuals from accidentally or purposefully accessing sensitive information. Access management requires a print-network, software solution, and supporting hardware solutions. Here, user-access is linked to print-queues, and then accessed through either badge, pin, or ID access at the printer. This type of access also allows you to track who prints which documents and where, so that you can see when data is being printed for no reason.

Firewalls and Network Security

Basic firewalls and network security are important for nearly any printer, but many organizations fail to set them up. Printers typically function as mini-computers, with internet and often WIFI access, meaning they are hackable, can be infected with virus and malware, and are vulnerable to attacks like Denial of Service, where an outside computer will overload the software with requests. Each can result in massive data leaks, as hackers can access entire print queues and print queue history from hard drives.

Basic network security, including access and change logs, is important for verifying who has made changes and why. This can help you flag when problems such as virus or malware do happen, even when they’re loaded onto a printer through a USB or computer.

Network security should be managed online, so that you can access and manage printer security from a central location. This will allow either you or your MPS vendor to monitor printer security and status, rather than waiting for something to go wrong to check it.

Setting Up Printer IP Addresses

Most printers are set up on the same IP as the standard server and website for the business, but this can be a mistake. Creating private IP space is important for ensuring the security of internal printers, because it prevents them from being accessed externally when set up on an internal LAN or subnet. This greatly reduces the risk of external hacks and data theft, simply because individuals have to be on the same IP first. Here, you can still allow for remote printing through virtual computers and cloud solutions, allowing for access on the same IP from a remote location, through your software.

Encrypting Hard Drives and Access Methods

Your printers likely come with basic hardware encryption, but it may not be enough. Review your risks and ensure that your printer encryption matches the needs of your industry and the sensitivity of your data. This will also ensure that your data remains safe, even when printers are disposed of, go back to the vendor, or are re-sold.

Keep Hardware and Software Up to Date

Printer hardware and software is typically relatively secure when up-to-date. Unfortunately, many organizations implement printers individually and are unable to manage frequent hardware and software updates to manage that security. As a result, a printer may be left vulnerable without a security patch, simply because a technician would have to go to the printer to manually install an update.

Here, MPS can greatly reduce the cost of keeping software up to date because most will install printers on a single network so they can push updates remotely. While this isn’t always the case, it will greatly simplify managing software updates and security compliance. Similarly, MPS will ensure hardware remains up to date, replacing hardware and printers as it becomes too old or no longer complies with risk-management and security standards.

Building a Culture of Secure Printer Usage

Maintaining quality printer security through software and secure hardware is important for protecting data. However, even if you have a quality MPS vendor in place to provide strong printer security, you still have to tackle one of your biggest risks, users. Many people underestimate the security risks of printers, become complacent when handling sensitive data, and will often avoid security protocols if they take too long.

Building a culture of printer security is important for maintaining continued security across your printers. This means implementing mandatory user-access management, implementing passwords and pin-codes, and creating policies like “Empty tray”. Here, individuals are trained to avoid leaving printed information in printer trays where it can be stolen or copied. Similarly, you should instruct individuals to avoid leaving passwords and access codes or badges lying around, to close print-files on computers before walking away, and to clear printer-queues.

Printer security is extremely important and may be vital to earning compliance for your industry. In most cases, the easiest way to ensure complete security is through managed print services, where external security standards are applied through software, secure hardware, and secure printer-usage policies. You should also work to ensure that internal security policies are being followed, by integrating security standards into tooling through mandatory badge or pin-access and secure printer-queues.