Originally published on August 29, 2017
Printers are often an afterthought when the subject of security arises. When, in reality, they’re central to how an organization operates. Sending a print job containing sensitive information begins with the end user, but the in-between channels are where that sensitive information is subject to be viewed (intentionally or unintentionally). We can always store passwords on digital documents, encrypt folders, and install VPNs to limit external access to our organization’s internal networks. But print security remains a challenge for three important reasons:
1. Printing is physical.
Digital documents can be locked away. We can restrict who’s able to access them and monitor when they do. Secure printing is another story. All too often, printed documents are left exposed for anyone to see—not just on someone’s desk, but right there in the printer’s output tray! Let the office gossip begin!
Furthermore, companies adopting a full-on remote workforce are witnessing a whole slew of problems with print security.
Here’s a short scenario for you: Let’s say, Steve, a remote employee, is trying to print a document for someone in HR residing at the company headquarters. This document gets delivered to the correct printer; however, the HR specialist left the office briefly. Steve’s document is now in the hands of anyone and everyone without his authorization. Now everyone can see that he got a pay raise and a promotion before it becomes public, leading to an HR disaster.
Situations like these are becoming more commonplace, leaving employees (or customers) exposed in a workplace that should be a safe haven for them.
2. Vulnerabilities when print jobs queue in the print spooler.
Recent vulnerabilities like Print Nightmare have wreaked havoc by potentially exposing company data. This vulnerability made it possible for attackers to access operating systems and run remote code with system privileges. Even now, PrintNightmare is still causing companies to second guess their printing architecture.
Companies utilizing print servers to execute print jobs are at a high risk of being attacked. This is especially true for companies utilizing multiple print servers since they have to be constantly updated, patched, and secured. Every time a print job goes to a print server, it’s at risk of being exposed to hackers fighting to gain access to your network. This makes your ability to control who sees your confidential information minimal, especially without embracing a serverless printing solution. For this reason, your print management solution must align with your company’s zero-trust security strategy to limit exposure to confidential documents.
The pandemic took a toll on companies worldwide and left a lot of people anticipating the death of the printer. For those who believed that was the outcome–think again. According to a poll by Quocirca in January 2022, despite the digitization of workflow during the pandemic, 44% of companies anticipate an increase in office print volumes, signaling an uptick in print security spending by 70% of organizations in the next 12 months.
It might be time to hop on the bandwagon and welcome print security (and the printer) with open arms.
3. Security in printing is only as strong as our end users.
Although we’ve all been told about the importance of creating a unique and virtually impenetrable password, it seems we still haven’t received the memo. The most popular passwords of 2022 are “password”, “qwerty”, and for the outside-the-box thinkers: “123456.” It’s easy to claim that these passwords stem from complete laziness; however, I would argue that no one wants to type in a 20-character password every time you need permission to perform a basic duty at work.
The same principle applies to secure printing. If you try to increase security in printing by making it a complex, six-phase procedure for end users, you’re more likely to discourage them from actually using it. End users should feel empowered when executing a print job, not overburdened. This is why secure printing solutions have to be convenient enough for users to prefer them over ordinary insecure methods.
Why Secure Release Printing?
Secure Release Printing from PrinterLogic takes all of these issues into account. It can’t make sensitive documents invisible to everyone except their intended recipients, but it can keep documents in the hands of those who printed them. All the while, you can relax knowing the roots of company chaos (i.e., print spooler and print server) are nonexistent.
Secure Release Printing is divided into two straightforward steps: the initiation of the print job and the release of that job at the printer. When a user with, say, a classified document clicks “Print,” the job is held in the user’s workstation. Once the user is physically at the printer, they can release the print job using one of the four methods:
- A badge or card reader: If your organization already has a badge system, PrinterLogic’s Secure Release Printing can integrate with that system to release print jobs by authorized users via their associated badge. The reader might be built into the network printer itself or connected externally to the printer and the network.
- Badge+PIN & User ID+PIN: Very effective for employees working in a high-security environment. This multi-factor authentication (MFA) feature provides an extra layer of security to keep confidential files out of unwanted hands.
- The Control Panel Application (CPA): PrinterLogic SaaS, our cloud-based serverless printing infrastructure, offers an embedded app for all major printer brands. This app allows users to log in, identify their print job, and release it for printing.
- Any browser: Using PrinterLogic’s web-based app, authorized users can release print jobs from any device that is capable of running a browser including mobile devices (iOS and Android).
Keeping your information private has never been more seamless. Instead of your jobs being held on a shared print server, they are held securely on the user’s workstation giving the user full control over the outcome of the print job through user authentication.