Five ways to improve print security today

Multi-function printers (MFPs) have become valuable assets in the workplace environment. But are they also a security risk? Experts say yes, which means IT departments must consider steps to improve print security around MFPs. Here are five steps to get you started.
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If you were to compile a list of the most vulnerable network points in your workplace, it is likely that list would be missing one of your most prevalent risks: multi-function printers (MFPs). More than just copiers, printers, and scanners, MFPs continue to advance and add functionality that has a positive impact on workplace productivity and convenience. But with that convenience comes a set of network vulnerabilities that must be addressed.

In a recent report, entitled Copier Data Security: A Guide for Businesses, the Federal Trade Commission refers to digital copiers as computers. It’s a sensible comparison, given that digital copiers and MFPs have more in common with computers than ever before.

Consider how these devices are being used today. Employees use them as document capture solutions – to scan documents and deliver them to their desktops or directly to contacts via email. IT managers rely on automated alerts to let them know when the toner is low or a device is in need of repair. MFPs can even upgrade themselves on the fly thanks to software patches received via the network. All of this functionality indicates that MFPs boast hard drives, embedded firmware, and network connections, just like a PC.

With that in mind, let’s examine five ways you can protect document workflow by securing the physical and electronic access points associated with MFPs. Simply put, you can improve MFP and print security by treating them like computers and mobile devices. Here’s how.

1. Require user authentication.

This enables the auditing, reporting and tracking of user activity as well as various other security features. There is no MFP less secure than one that allows anonymous usage. Such devices are susceptible to various forms of abuse and can make tracing the source of a data breach or leak virtually impossible.

2. Centralise the auditing of network activity.

Auditing allows the MFP to store tracking information in a database. In the event of a data breach, this security practice will allow you to easily track down which device was the source of the breach, tell you who the authenticated user was, and where the data was sent.

3. Encrypt data to and from MFPs.

Modern multi-function devices contain hard drives which are used to cache scanned document images and printed documents. As a result, all non-volatile memory media used to cache data on the device should employ a method of data erasure to protect sensitive information.

4. Enforce the use of trusted network destinations.

Consider solutions that allow MFPs to validate metadata entered by users. For example, hospitals should enforce the validation of phone numbers entered at the MFD in order to prevent faxing to untrusted numbers. Financial companies should require that email addresses be validated so that documents scanned at an MFP cannot be delivered to non-valid email addresses. Along the same lines, companies that still perform a significant amount of faxing in their day-to-day operations should ensure that their MFPs are making use of secure, PII protected lines.

5. Implement rules-based printing.

The most secure access begins with user identification at the device, along with the ability to control what each user can or cannot do. For example, rule-based printing should require that users be physically present to initiate a print job (e.g., requiring a proximity smart code to be entered). This enhances security and preventing unauthorised users from accessing printed PII documents.

These five steps can have a dramatic impact on your document security. Find out how else you can create a more secure network environment when it comes to multi-function devices. Nuance document security solutions can help you protect your workplace environment and eliminate many of the risks associated with MFPs and digital copiers.

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