Printing technology has evolved dramatically over the past couple of years. These machines are more efficient, can print dozens of pages per minute, connect to the cloud, and even let you send print jobs from your mobile device.
But it’s in the security department where printing technology has really taken off.
With printing now accessible via a network connection and hacking attacks on the rise, a network printer may be the most vulnerable piece of equipment in the office. According to Quocirca’s 2019 “Global Print Security” report, 59% of businesses in the UK, US, and Europe have experienced a print-related breach.
It’s because of these alarming statistics that printer manufacturers are going above and beyond to include robust security features into their devices. The hope is that these printer security features will decrease the risk of businesses falling victim to cybercrime.
In this guide, we introduce common network printer security features, looking at how they work to make printing safer for you.
Passwords provide the first line of defense against unauthorised access to personal documents sent to the network printer. The password installation feature that comes with many printers will give you peace of mind that documents will not be released for printing until users authenticate themselves when they are at the device. Password protection is a functionality that enables “follow-me” printing, which is discussed below.
If you’re worried about sensitive documents sitting in the printer tray, the “follow-me” feature will ensure that no one but the owner of the printouts have access to them. Only when a user authenticates themselves via a login or ID card will their documents print out, maintaining confidentiality at all times.
The device authentication feature, accessible through the printer software, allows you to check that connected devices to your network printer can be trusted to be what they purport to be. If any suspicious devices are identified, your network administrator can prevent them from carrying out harmful processes by simply revoking its privileges.
There are printers such as HP’s range of devices that can automatically detect and remove threats. Every time a printer is turned on or restarts with an error, it will launch a defence mechanism known as secure boot. This process stops malicious code from being released during the startup while simultaneously healing an infected BIOS.
A big part of what makes modern printers vulnerable to attack is malicious programmes running on the system. Whitelisting works to make sure that only known firmware versions from the manufacturer or authentic third-party software are loaded. When it picks up an unfamiliar or unapproved programme, the printer will restart itself, and will display the Preboot menu options on the control panel.
Printers have built-in memory where your data is temporarily stored during or after print jobs. Needless to say this poses a security risk. Fortunately, many multifunction printers support full-disk encryption. It is a feature that scrambles the entire content stored on the hard disk, preventing hackers from accessing confidential information.
When a printer completes a job, there’s a chance that it can be retrieved even after deletion unless it’s been effectively overwritten. To counteract this risk, multifunction printers can be installed with a solution that completely erases data and overwrites it with meaningless data that ensures no confidential information remains accessible on the disk drive.
New technology can constantly monitor printer threats and provide immediate alerts if it picks up suspicious behaviour. HP’s Run-time intrusion detection function, for example, can detect malware and immediately stops normal operation and reboot to a known safe condition.
As printers continue to be an important part of today’s office, it’s important that employees feel confident using the devices. Modern multifunction network printers are generally safer now than they’ve ever been, because they’re laden with features that work behind the scenes to keep cyber attacks at bay and make everyday printing more secure.