Converting what you have on the screen to a physical document on paper is a convenient way to store and share information. You can see and feel the information, mark the paper if there is a need for corrections, and store it securely if you need to. Print offers convenience and easy access to your information even without electricity. With this convenience in print, there are common Print security threats. This article will show you some common print security threats and how to protect against them.
With the world becoming increasingly digital, print security is taking more of a back seat. We usually think of security breaches as happening to our digital devices; however, security breaches can still happen in print and print devices.
Common Print Security Threats
Print information can be vulnerable whether in digital form or on paper. Here are some common print security risks and how to minimize or eliminate them.
- Misplaced printed documents
- Forgetting printed documents in the print tray
- Data in motion attack
- Printer hacking
- Stealing the device
- Unsafe device or document disposal
- Paper jams
- Outsourced print jobs
- Faulty printing device
Protecting your data against some common print security threats
1] Misplaced printed documents
Misplacing documents after they are printed can be a common way to have sensitive information seen by others. Whether it is at the print shop, your office, or anywhere in between like public transportation, restaurants or anywhere you may stop.
Important printed documents should be treated carefully just like their digital counterparts. If the documents are very important, try to get them to their destination as quickly as possible and without any unimportant stope in-between.
2] Forgetting printed documents in the print tray
You may share an office space with lots of people, but this does not mean that all persons share the same level of clearance for every data in the office. There may be one network printer that is shared by all and this can be a weak link where sensitive data can get seen by others. This can be even more likely if parts or all of the documents printed are forgotten in the printer tray. It could be also the fact that the printer is far from you so that when the document is sent it is in the printer until you can get there physically. This could allow others to read or even record the document while you are trying to get to it.
If you work with very sensitive data, they should be printed on a separate printer than those used for more common information. These printers should also be located in places that not everyone has access to. It would also be good to get printers that require physical confirmation before they print out that information. This means that not everyone can access the print, even if it is held by the printer.
3] Data in motion attack
When you send your job to the printer and it is waiting in the queue it is at rest. When the job is moved from the device to the printer, it is in motion. There is sometimes a level of vulnerability when the print job is moving from the device to the printer. Computers and other devices are usually more protected so people usually take advantage of the time when the print job is moving from the device to the printer. At this point, Malware or spyware can be used to manipulate or steal the data.
Make sure that the printed and other devices (routers, ports, etc.), are regularly updated. Get the latest driver and firmware updates from the manufacturer. Ensure that WI-FI is password protected and guess WI-FI is separate from the company’s WI-FI. Ensure that sensitive data is encrypted.
4] Printer hacking
Printers and other printing devices are usually weak links in your network. They can be hacked remotely or physically if they are not adequately protected. Without proper access control, persons can hack the devices physically.
Protect your network devices with proper software and firmware updates. It is also good practice to protect them physically with locks and keys. Ensure that you have proper access control. Printers that are used for sensitive information should be kept where only authorized persons can access them with proper access devices.
5] Stealing the device
Without proper security and access control for devices, they can be physically stolen. If the device is physically stolen, persons can have access to the data, stored passwords, user names, and other sensitive information that is on the printer.
Practice proper access control for your property. Treat printers just like you would protect your computer. Keep printers and other devices locked so that unauthorized persons cannot access them. The mistake people sometimes make is thinking that a printer alone is useless to people. However, the right person with the right set of tools can get information from a printer. And as previously mentioned, unprotected printers can be a gateway to other devices on your network.
6] Unsafe device or document disposal
When devices have reached their end of life, they are sometimes disposed of in ways that anyone can access them. A discarded printer may still have enough information that a knowledgeable hacker could use. Documents that are to be disposed of because the data is no longer needed or possibly because of a misprint, may still contain enough sensitive data that can be used by malicious persons.
Ensure that the printing device is properly disposed of. You may need to have the memory removed and check for printed documents that may be in the printer. Check to see if your manufacturer or a reputable company would dispose of the device for you. It is also good to invest in a good paper shredder that will be used to destroy documents before disposing of them. If you dispose of large volumes of documents with sensitive data, it may be a good idea to assign persons for this job.
7] Paper jams
Paper jams are ways that sensitive data can be left in a printer. You may not be able to remove it yourself but the person who does may not have the clearance to see the data that is on the document. paper jams may leave parts of even whole documents in a printer without you even noticing it.
Whenever you print, make sure that you know the number of pages that are to be in the document. Also ensure that if there is a paper jam, and the information is sensitive, supervise the person who is clearing the jam. If the printer needs to go for repair, make sure that the company is reputable. If the repair is in-house ensure that the person repairing is reputable.
8] Outsourced print jobs
If you have print jobs that are too large for your organization to print, you may have to outsource them. This means that your sensitive data will be seen by others outside of your organization. This means that your information is at risk and you do not have a lot of control over what will happen to it.
If you have a lot of sensitive data to print, it may be a good idea to invest in printing equipment. If this is not possible at the moment, make sure to outsource your printing to reputable companies. Ensure that you have a proper paper trail of which company printed so that you know where the information is leaked if it should happen.
9] Faulty printing device
Your organization may have a printer that is malfunctioning and this can cause a security breach. If this printer is shared by multiple persons, the type of malfunction could cause sensitive data to be unintentionally shared. For example, a printer that is double printing/ghost printing could print ghost print sensitive data from a previous print job onto other print jobs. Printers that double print/ghost print may leave sensitive data on internal parts due to the type of ghost print/double print. This could be seen when the printer is opened for repair.
Keep printers that print sensitive information separate from other printers. If that is not possible, make sure that malfunctioning printers are repaired promptly. Ensure that printer repairs are done by reputable persons.
What threats can printers pose?
Unsecured printers can allow hackers to gain access to your network. Printers are often overlooked as entry points to your network. However. Printers can pose a security threat as they are usually less protected. The data can be manipulated or the printer can be the entryway to other devices on the network.
Ensure that the printer is updated as often as possible, and update the firmware and driver. Make sure that the other devices on the network are also updated regularly. Printers that will be used to print sensitive information should be isolated from the main network, they should also be physically protected from unauthorized persons.
How can you secure print documents?
Some manufacturers of printers have a secure print feature built into their printers. The secure print allows users to choose to secure print certain documents or all documents. With secure print enabled for some or all documents. The printer will not release a print job until a pin is entered. If you print sensitive data in an environment where the printer is used by multiple persons, it would be wise to invest in one of these printers.