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Why businesses are shifting from A3 printing

In the world of technology, change is constant. Just like mobile phones slimmed down and TVs became sleeker, printers have undergone a similar transformation. Gone are the days of bulky, cumbersome machines. Today, finding efficiencies – however small or well buried - is the name of the game.

Whether it’s losing access to your production data due to a ransomware attack or having customer information or intellectual property exfiltrated and sold on the dark web, the consequences can be catastrophic, both reputationally and operationally.

Lacking focus on printer security

But it seems that printer security is, if not a blind spot, certainly not a focus for IT decision makers (ITDMs). When analyst firm Quocirca asked ITDMs about potential security risks in 2022, employees’ home printers were the fifth most cited security risk, mentioned by 24 percent of respondents. The office print environment ranked even lower, mentioned by just 21 percent.

And yet two thirds of organisations told Quocirca that they had experienced data losses due to unsecure printing practices. The average cost per breach was £525,000, though other “unquantified” impacts included loss of business continuity and business disruption.

The dangers are twofold. The loss or unauthorised circulation of a single, confidential paper document can itself be catastrophic. The to-ing and fro-ing between the US Department of Justice and Donald Trump over whether classified documents were removed from the White House might be headline grabbing, but a hard copy of a personnel record ending up in the wrong hands can be devastating for the person involved.

And now, because the workplace has changed so significantly, your printer and scanning devices also constitute a security challenge in themselves. After all, a modern printer is typically a highly capable endpoint computing device, packing its own storage, and usually bristling with connectivity options such as ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and USB, and could function outside of your traditional network security parameters.

Warning signs for printer security

In October 2022, researchers at Cybernews claimed to have hijacked 28,000 unsecured printers to highlight the dangers. They used their “control” of those devices to print out a short guide to printer security. But as they pointed out, less scrupulous individuals could have accessed confidential documents held in printer memory and exfiltrated them. Or they could have used compromised devices as a staging post for further intrusion into corporate networks. Or repurposed them for DDoS attacks, spamming or crypto mining.

So how can you begin to close the gap when it comes to printer security? Implementing a triple-layer security approach is vital to keeping your network, device and documents safe.

Good network security practices in general are essential. You should already be monitoring unusual traffic into, out of, and across your network to spot unusual patterns. But are you sure you’re paying sufficient attention to traffic to and from your printers and other document devices?

And what about the devices themselves? It’s worth remembering that older devices could have unsecure and hard to update firmware which makes them more vulnerable to hackers.

Consider a zero-trust approach to print security

Modern devices should provide security features, such as port management and document encryption which aim to stop hackers in their tracks. Password protection and authentication technology will ensure only legitimate users can print to them and access documents. But it’s up to you to implement these features properly and consider the level of trust you place in your devices. According to IDC, 50% of organisations are looking to include printing within a zero-trust security network.

You might want to take things further and ensure that employees have to go direct to the printer and unlock a document before it is printed, using a PIN or card, to head off the possibility that someone else can intercept it.

All of this will be easier to achieve if you are using the cloud or print management platform, so that you can see who is doing what across your network and can set, enforce, and monitor security policies and workflows, right down to individual devices and employees. Many SMBs use managed service providers to mitigate shortcomings in internal expertise. By using the cloud, smaller companies are provided with enterprise-grade services featuring similar levels of security corporates enjoy.

You might find that it makes sense to work with a managed print services partner, who can help you assess your security posture, and in running your print operations more efficiently overall. Companies that work with MPS providers typically had a higher awareness of security risks, Quocirca found. They were also more confident about their security posture and found keeping up with security challenges easier.

It's easy to forget just how intelligent and powerful your printers and other document devices really are. But be assured, hackers and cyber criminals won’t make that mistake – explore what Security by Brother means here.   

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