7 Ways to Protect Your Business Printers | IDG

7 Ways to Protect Your Business Printers | IDG.  (No longer available online. Original text included below.)

Can a hacker burn down your business by remotely starting one of your printers on fire? Researchers recently proposed such a scenario, and HP quickly denied that it’s possible. Even if your printers can’t be used as remote fire starters, there are many risks involved in networking a printer. Is your printing environment secure?

Data security gets a lot of attention, especially in the business world. File servers provide encrypted, access controlled storage. Workstations are encrypted as well, with password and even biometric access required. Databases and even files often require a password just to see what’s inside. Then we print that data, sending the private contents off to a printer that may not be nearly as secure as the rest of your system.

Basic Print Security

Most networked printer problems can be avoided by using two basic steps. 

1. Password

Most networked printers can be accessed remotely with a password. Change the default password! This is perhaps the most important step of all for a networked printer. 

2. Firmware

When security issues are discovered, updates to the firmware are released. Keep your printer firmware updated. 

By keeping your printer secure with a strong password, and closing any known security holes with up-to-date firmware, you’ll avoid most basic network printer issues.

Advanced Print Security

If you deal with highly sensitive data, then you need to go far beyond the basic steps by protecting your printout at every step along it’s journey. HP has detailed information on how to use its products to protect your data, and other printer providers offer similar solutions as well. Regardless of the vendors you use, here are the four steps you should be considering to keep your businesses data secure through the printing process.

1. Secure Your Infrastructure

Whether you have two printers or two hundred, they need to be managed. Keeping passwords updated, installing the latest firmware, and securing access are just a few of the steps that can be done through remote management software. HP’s Web JetAdmin is one example, allowing you to keep tabs on all your HP printers from one workstation. You should also use firewalls to protect against outside attacks and probing, and be sure WiFi networks are secured.

2. Secure Your Data

When you send a print job, be sure it is on a secured network. Use encryption so a print job can’t be intercepted along it’s path. Print jobs can even be sent to an encrypted print server, and then securely “pulled” from the server when ready.

3. Secure Your Printers

Beyond changing the default password, implementing access control can protect the printer from being accessed remotely or on-site. Printers with hard drives for spooling should be encrypted. Once a job is printed, traces of it should be erased from the hard drive and from memory.

4. Secure Your PrintoutsIf you generate secure documents with special paper, secure trays are available to protect the media. Leaving documents sitting in a printer tray should be avoided. Use private printing to send your jobs, or at least send them as “manual feed”. This will assure a user will be at the printer to release the job, reducing the chance of a printout being forgotten and falling into the wrong hands.