IT Security Essential for Printing and Imaging Devices

9/20/12 3:13 PM Eva Jacob Security

IT SecuritySmall and medium-sized businesses often focus on networks and software when considering their IT security profile.  While adequate IT networking security is certainly an essential component for any plan to confront the current threat environment, organizations must also have in place policies and procedures that will promote print security.  Unbeknownst to many SMBs, one of their biggest security vulnerabilities could actually be their printers.

Overwriting data

Modern printers often contain hard drives in addition to random access memory.  The printer stores data onto the hard drive in order to perform functions such as copying, scanning, and faxing pages of information.  This information represents a security hole when the printer is discarded.  SMBs need to make sure they wipe hard drives clean using robust protocols that involve overwriting every sector several times in order to render data completely irretrievable. 

A printer hard drive can also be an ongoing security vulnerability.  For this reason, the printer should be set up to overwrite its data as soon as each print, scan, fax, or copy job has been completed.  A managed programs model for IT support will provide small businesses with personnel who have the expertise to set this up and monitor that it continues indefinitely. 

Encrypting data

Many SMBs have probably only heard of encryption with regard to internet security.  Encryption, however, can also be a powerful tool when it comes to print security.  Many printers store information for ease of reprinting or e-mailing.  If this stored data can be considered sensitive, it should be encrypted with a strong password so that it can only be read by authorized personnel, even if the hard drive is extracted from the printer itself. 

These issues should not be neglected but all too often, they are falling by the wayside.  A recent survey administered in part by Hewlett Packard indicates that more than four-fifths of businesses rate print security as a very important or important issue.  Despite this, less than half of such organizations provide for print security provisions in their main IT security planning documents. 

For small businesses, one of the main bars to adopting more robust print security measures is a lack of qualified personnel.  In-house IT support staff are not likely to possess expertise regarding printers as well as their usual responsibilities.  A managed programs model for IT services can fill this gap and help organizations secure their print assets in affordable and effective ways.

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