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Should an IT Security Strategy include MFD’s?

Should an IT Security Strategy include MFD’s?

According to InfoTrends, there are almost 30 million printers and MFDs in Western Europe and the U.S. and most are connected to a network. 

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Should an IT Security Strategy include MFD’s?
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Should an IT Security Strategy include MFD’s?

According to InfoTrends, there are almost 30 million printers and multifunction devices (MFDs) in offices throughout Western Europe and the U.S. and most are connected to a network. This means they are just as vulnerable to malware and hacker attacks as PCs, but for a variety of reasons they are often overlooked by IT professionals and used without proper safeguards by employees.

I have been working in the managed print services (MPS) space for over 15 years and have been warning of the dangers of MFD security. In the last couple of years the demand for printer security has finally increased. I’m often asked the question by customers, if their IT security strategy should include MPD’s and the answer is "100% yes". However, I still see holes in the print security of many organisations.

Security threats are real, and as printing and imaging devices become increasingly sophisticated, they offer greater opportunities for attackers to compromise the device or the entire network. This is due to the lack of security on networked devices which are not controlled by network firewalls, leaving printing and imaging devices often overlooked and exposed. In Europe, Quocirca research showed that 70% of organisations have suffered a print security breach.

The first step in making sure that your company doesn’t fall prey to such a data breach is to understand the risk your print environment poses and then develop a strategy to manage this risk.

Improve your print fleet’s security through these 5 simple steps: 
  1. Introduce simple role based printing and document right policies to ensure that print jobs are only seen by the author.
  2. Ensure that you use a supplier who operates a recognised process for the removal and disposal of printing devices.
  3. Use a secure pull print solution, data overwrite and encryption processes.
  4. Review your existing infrastructure, policies and technologies and look for external reviews as the introduction of a trusted supplier can often lead to higher levels of security than many companies can achieve in-house.
  5. Take advantage of enhanced security systems for MFD’s and printers, such as the HP JetAdvantage Security.

Step 5 is key as these technologies help to safeguard the printing and imaging devices from attacks, creating ease of mind for IT managers and removing the need for intervention from IT staff. Any notifications regarding risks can be sent to IT directly. HP are leading the way in this space and have developed and deployed an end-to-end printing security strategy, an industry first in security management. 

HP Futuresmart enterprise models are monitored by 3 key technologies:
  1. HP Sure Start: As your printer powers on for the first time, HP Sure Start works in the background, validating the BIOS at every power cycle and also inspecting the FutureSmart firmware. If the BIOS is in any way compromised, the printer will reboot to a “safe mode” version of the BIOS. This gives the end user the time to download a new, safe copy of firmware to be uploaded to the printer.
  2. Whitelisting: MFDs these days are much like the end-user computer, they incorporate memory, processor, hard drives and software. In order for these components to integrate and communicate, the FutureSmart firmware is uploaded to the internal hard drive of the printer. Whitelisting ensures that the firmware is genuine and uncompromised, and if there is any detection of an intrusion, the device again, boots into the “safe mode” function and notifies the relevant group/person.
  3. Run-Time Intrusion: Companies install their MFD on their network unaware that these are prime targets for network intrusion. Although a firewall is configured for a client’s network to safeguard their systems, printers installed on the same network are open to malware/virus attacks by other sources. Run-Time Intrusion is a live protection service which, if an intrusion is detected, automatically reboots the device.

The HP FutureSmart firmware includes these 3 functions as standard. To increase security for your business the benefits of the FutureSmart firmware and current devices should not be overlooked. It is useful and productive and brings multiple benefits for IT operators. HP Jetadvantage Security Manager is an application that comes as standard on the latest HP FutureSmart enterprise models. This gives the customer a continuous assurance of security policy settings. These settings are deployed through the use of a security compliance tool. Within the application, the IT department can create policy templates to be distributed to devices in their print environment. It allows numerous tasks to be run within the policy editor including:

  • Policy validations to identify missed items and potential conflicts
  • Adding, verifying and grouping devices
  • Assessing devices to set up recurring tasks
  • Running executive level risk based reporting
  • Providing detailed reports on assessments and remediation

By implementing these types of solutions for clients, we are starting to see that users are no longer scared of the risks that MFDs pose. Security assessments and workshops help identify and target specific security risks within your current fleet and also help with a standard security policy for the future. We soon should see a time where the MFD is considered a “real” piece of networked hardware rather than an “outsider” and taking the time to protect it is just as important as all other networked devices.

Register for our Print Security Workshop on Thurs 5th Oct here.

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