Providers and end-users alike are becoming more attuned to the value of Managed Print Services (MPS) – but cybercriminals are also taking notice. Just like any networked service, an MPS can garner attention from bad actors who are looking to gain unauthorised access to your business’s data and systems.

But not every Managed Print Service is the same, and some are better than others at handling printer security. Here’s a guide on what to look for when evaluating the overwhelming number of MPS providers out there.

Printer security basics

Office printers have advanced by leaps and bounds over the past decade, evolving from just another networked gadget into powerful Multi-Function Printers (MFPs) with a wide range of connectivity options.

But while this has been great for efficiency and productivity, it’s also made the job of managing a printer fleet more complex. In most cases, a managed print service is the ideal solution for businesses that regularly rely on printing and have a distributed print environment. By managing all of the organisation’s printing devices and processes – including printers, scanners, faxes and copiers – an MPS can save you money while boosting productivity. It can also improve your environmental footprint by reducing paper waste.

This new generation of printing and scanning devices also presents two significant security challenges – the first being that they typically store and process a large volume of sensitive business information. Secondly, they frequently have access to your apps, email, content management systems and cloud-based documents. This makes them as prone to cyber attacks as any other network endpoint.

These attacks will often be attempts to access company or customer data or gain user credentials that provide further access to your network. So what specific cyber risks should you be aware of, how can they be mitigated and what are the security advantages of choosing a managed print solution?

Device hacking

Most Multi-Function Printers can connect to Cloud services for print and scan, meaning it’s connected to the web, this opens the door to obvious risks. An MPS should continuously monitor your printing environment, applying security-related updates in a timely fashion. When evaluating an MPS provider, ask if they conduct regular audits of your printing infrastructure to identify any potential security deficiencies.

Ageing devices

A network is only as secure as its weakest link. Your oldest printers and scanners are likely to be the most vulnerable to attack, and should therefore be replaced when no longer supported by the vendor.

This can be a challenge if your printer fleet contains a variety of models from different vendors. But a managed service contract can ensure you are using the latest equipment, at the end of each contract you can request an upgrade, keeping your print fleet up to date. It can also offer printer leasing plans with fixed or usage-based monthly billing, making it easier for the business to manage its cash flow.

Access control

Inadequate authentication management and password theft are common IT problems that are often overlooked on business printers. In a corporate printing environment, the devices, people and documents should be able to provide identities that can be used for tracking, accounting and security.

An MPS can mitigate these risks with a tailored security plan. This could include printer sign-in procedures – using a PIN, access card or fingerprint – to prevent documents being stolen from output trays, along with waste disposal and document management processes. It could also include installing MFPs with an automatic hard drive wiping feature, and other solutions to reduce the risk of sensitive information falling into the hands of hackers.

Remote printing

Mobile printing allows employees to print remotely from any location outside the office, from any smart, connected device. An often-overlooked fact is that these devices can be just as vulnerable to hacking, identity theft and malware as PCs and laptops. In fact, the risk can be much higher if they are used regularly on public or home-based wireless networks.

The safest option is to require remote users to log into the company’s network via a secure VPN so print jobs are always dispatched from a protected server. An MPS can help establish a print policy that includes the right software, patches and user guidelines for mobile device use.

Employee training

Arming your employees with the right knowledge about printer security will make them the best line of defence in your data protection strategy. An MPS provider will typically provide staff training that helps employees get up to speed on new hardware and workflows. Make sure you choose an MPS that can also provide security training to print administrators, as well as things like internal security awareness campaigns and monthly reminders.

Unmanaged print devices can be a major security vulnerability that puts your entire business at risk. An MPS can provide a proactive, comprehensive security plan that implements the necessary controls and technology to keep your print environment productive and secure.

The first step to securing the printers on your network with MPS is to perform an audit of your print ecosystem. Brother can help – just ask us how.

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