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On Tuesday, we talked about the processes you need to implement in order to make your life as CIO a little more relaxing. But today, it’s back to reality: today begins a three-part blog series on your print processes and how they impact your company security.

What kinds of security risks can a printer really have? You’d be surprised: according to a 2013 white paper by Quocirca, 63 percent of businesses have experienced a printer-related security breach, but only 22 percent have implemented secure printing initiatives. Here are two security risks that your company encounters every time you use the printer.

Data storage

Printers and multi-function printers (MFPs) have hard drives that store data, just like on a computer or mobile device. This allows them to print documents from multiple sources efficiently, but it also means that printers can be hacked or hard drive data can be transferred if the device is utilized by another company. If employees are printing out tax returns, W2s or other sensitive information, they’re at serious risk if the device is compromised.

To combat hard drive hacks, consider developing a hard-drive data-erase function to ensure that temporary data is erased and deleted documents aren’t accessible. You can also encrypt devices’ hard disks, making it unreadable to anyone other than authorized parties. However, to make sure encryption is successful, it’s necessary to include precautions like ensuring each encryption key is unique and they’re all stored separately from encrypted data.

Mobile print allowances

Today, it’s possible to print from just about any device. An employee can connect their smartphone to the print network and have a document in hand in seconds. It’s convenient, certainly, which may have been the primary reason you chose to allow mobile access to printing. However, the sheer abundance of mobile devices on a print network (many of which are not secured) means that there are many new points of entry for a hack to come from.

Consider this example: an employee who’s connected her mobile device to print a report downloads a new app on her phone. The app developer, unbeknownst to her, has created a piece of malware within the app that infects the mobile device, attaches itself to a cloud print job and from there infects a networked printer. From there, they can access your entire network, bypassing firewall and intrusion detection entirely.

To keep information safe, it’s essential to lock down data processes and include printers in network security measures and policies. To go the extra mile, consider running “whitelisting” processes, where only approved files and users can access information. It can go a long way in keeping your information secure.

Print-related security breaches happen, and it’s essential that you protect your company against them now. By securing your printer hard drives and mobile print processes, you go a long way in doing that. Check back next week for more on print security, and check out our on-demand webinar on print security below for more.

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Photo credit: jared moran via Flickr Creative Commons

print security