Security in the Print Environment

The typical office today is a mixture of the tangible and the virtual. The days where offices were notorious for their dull, monotonous environment are long gone. As are those endless cabinets of semi-organised documental chaos, the stuffy chairs, and the creaky desk.

Sure, some offices still have those. But it is soon becoming an employee-centric world. Be it communication, work flexibility, meetings, and what not – all of it has changed significantly thanks to advancements in technology.

Today’s Print Environment

Our area of focus is the print environment today. Printing services have been an integral part of the office space since a very long. The ability to have quick references to whatever you want on paper is still valued. Printers were notoriously tricky to purchase earlier, given that printing was a luxury reserved only for a select few, namely newspapers and publishing houses.

The traditional printing press was huge. Dye-Sublimation printers, photocopiers, laser printers, fax machines, and inkjet printers all began shrinking to a much more manageable size. Printing technology is now easily accessible to all and sundry. The cost of printing itself (per print) has dramatically decreased.

However, offices still spend a great deal on printing. Lasers Resource offers us the following statistics to support this:

  • The average worker prints 34 pages a day; 17% are entirely unused
  • Full-time employees can spend, on average, 20+ minutes looking for a document
  • 65% of documents get thrown away or recycled the same day they are printed
  • Every $1 spent on printing can cost another $9 to manage over the lifecycle of the document
  • 5% of all documents get lost in an office setting, and 3% of all documents get misfiled
  • 9 out of 10 North American companies have no idea what they spend on printing annually

The typical print environment does not merely consist of printing machines but also looks at the entire process from document input, synthesis, output and dissemination. With the advent of the internet, offices have begun tightening the noose on networks and their intellectual property. Security is another part of the budget and an important one at that.

The printer itself has a functionality that resembles a computer. It has an independent Ethernet interface, for instance, an IP address, a sophisticated, and a wide range of options for printing. Incidentally, it also represents one of the most significant vulnerabilities in the office space.

Yes, you heard that right. The inconspicuous printer or MFP can be a threat for your organisation’s intellectual property. Many agencies focus on network security but only include personal mobile devices (laptops, tablets and smartphones) in their security net apart from the lattice of computers that occupy the office space.

This negligence also applies to other work environments like hospitals or banks, where regulatory compliance typically covers networks and mobile devices. But what about your printer fleet?

Is your Print Environment Secure?

Your print environment is a funnel for ALL your documentation. Client data, employee data, office-centric statistics or ANY intellectual property goes through it and is vulnerable on multiple fronts.

The Interactive Data Corporation, or IDC, has undertaken a print security survey that may just startle you. Here are the most relevant findings:

  • Print security vs IT security is a prevalent problem. 26% respondents indicated that print security is critical, and less than respondents stating that IT security is paramount.
  • Confidence with print security is lesser than that about IT security by a 13% margin.
  • 35 percent of all security breaches in offices were traced back to an unsecured printer or multifunction device, costing companies $133,800 each year.

Printers fall into the category of fringe devices that, if compromised, can help the assailant gain a solid foundation through which they can access other, more private networks and data.

Redundant, or outdated printers with older firmware pose a higher risk. Most of the older generation of printers did not have password protection, at least not by default. Most new printers have remedied that. Over that, if there is no system to funnel documents appropriately, a lot of company data is left unattended or disposed of improperly once printed.

Those documents are open to being digitised for other prying eyes.

Holistic Remedies and Solutions

From here, the step up consists of engaging in secure printing practices and, more importantly, technological solutions that are holistic.

These solutions will help you set up an intelligent print environment, which will not only optimise your return on investment (costs) but also give you a reinforced security layer. For starters, you need to focus on some key areas that will help you evaluate on the kind of security solutions that you need.

Ricoh is leading printing and documents solution, IT services and communication solutions company. They recommend focusing on the following areas when it comes to print security:

  1. Document Processes and Protection: Securing the entire document lifecycle
  2. User Identification and Authorisation: Preventing unauthorised access through protocol and tech
  3. System configuration and devices: Securing the storage environment and software
  4. Network protection: Encrypt communication and remotely manage ports
  5. Audits and Monitoring: Implement management tools that monitor in real-time

Ricoh also has a variety of print security solutions. Their printers have high-grade security features incorporated within them. Additionally, they have card authentication packages, watermarking capabilities, device tracking software, workflow automation products and holistic systems that encompass all these things.

Products like the EZ charger equips organisations (typically SMB sized) to monitor and control MFP resources. The Card authentication package simplifies and secures user access issues with customised access cards, while the Locked Print suite provides a solution for securely storing and accessing documents.

Essentially, investing in the following technologies, from companies like Ricoh or otherwise, will help you secure your print environment.

There are a smattering of tools and tech available today. The greatest one is awareness. Being aware of the vulnerabilities in your print environment and remedying them accordingly with the help of industry professionals like Ricoh will give your business the edge like none other.


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