3 Ways to Address Security Vulnerabilities in Print and Document Infrastructure

Security has become a top-level IT concern among businesses of all sizes. Yet, IDC’s own research suggests that print security initiatives lag well behind overall IT security for most organizations. Indeed, securing the print environment is often an overlooked element of a comprehensive IT security strategy.

Interestingly, print security is now considered critical criteria when evaluating new hardware acquisitions. According to IDC’s MaturityScape Benchmark: Print Security in the United States, 2016, more than 70% of respondents say that print security has a high level of influence on the printers and MFPs that they buy or lease. Nevertheless, the number of respondents indicating that print security was “very important” was 26% fewer than those concerned with overall IT security.

Meanwhile, there is growing concern over the need to more effectively manage access to business-critical information. The ongoing shift to mobile and cloud-based workflows is changing the way we work. Employees, clients, and other knowledge workers now require 24/7 access to information from both inside and outside the corporate firewall. CIOs and IT departments face mounting pressure to gain better control over information management.

Security Susceptibilities

Print and document infrastructure is one of the first places to begin. An organizations’ own print environment is unique in that it is central to managing data, documents, and information in both digital and paper format. A recent study from IDC titled User Perspectives on Print Security, 2015, shows that more than 30% of organizations have no security policies in place for managing access to and controlling usage rights for printers and MFPs located on the network. At the same time, over half of the survey respondents indicated a high level of concern regarding the unauthorized use of copiers or MFPs.

This lack of oversight within the print and document environment leaves organizations vulnerable to data-and device-level security breaches through compromised firmware, unsecured networks and document repositories, and information/data leakage. The end result could be extensive staff time and costs to address the breach, fines, and damage to the business reputation. Neglecting to secure the print environment as part of an overall IT strategy leaves an organization vulnerable to significant internal and external cyber threats.

Increased awareness of security breach consequences combined with a better messaging around the potential impact will cause businesses to adopt more meaningful strategies. Accordingly, IDC expects to see a notable change in the corporate mindset about print security as it relates to IT security over the next twelve months.

Security Services and MPDS

A managed print and document services (MPDS) practice that focuses both on print and content security could help your customers proactively monitor and manage security for the printing infrastructure. Unmanaged, today’s office MFPs represent a significant security risk. Yet, by deploying intelligent security tools and services wrapped around smart MFPs, the MPDS provider could become a strategic partner in developing a strong security strategy.

Many equipment vendors are already embedding security features into the hardware itself, with capabilities such as data encryption, secure print, and whitelisting technology to protect and prevent the device from malware or other unauthorized attacks. At the same time, vendors are offering an expanded array of device- and data-level protection services, many of which are designed to integrate with existing document management and ECM systems to provide further protection and to address governance and regulatory compliance issues. These broader security services are likely to gain the attention of many more customers and prospects.

Tactics that lead to securing printing assets and the documents produced by this equipment should account for multiple aspects of the print environment including, but not limited to, authentication/authorization, firmware updates, privacy and data integrity, device management, and device and data security. Additional services to address the human element involved in the installation, configuration, and usage of the equipment should also be considered. For many customers, the process could seem overwhelming.

MPDS Providers Offer Invaluable Expertise

This is where the MPDS provider could play an important role. Some tactics are rather simple approaches for safeguarding the equipment and data, while others involve value-add services that are considerably more complex in their implementation and offer a higher level of security. As a result, MPS providers should look to become experts at security solutions built around the MFP. These solutions not only represent an important opportunity to drive incremental revenue and profit, they can also help strengthen client relationships. As a provider of security services, your role is expanded beyond that of a typical service provider to become a trusted advisor for your customer.

Over the next few years, businesses are expected to invest significantly in tools and services to increase cyber security and data protection. As a service provider, it only makes sense to expand deeper into these areas. If you are actively searching for ways to increase customer spend and enhance the value of your customer relationships, look no further than developing significant expertise in print and content security.

Robert Palmer is Research Director with IDC’s Imaging, Printing, and Document Solutions team. He is responsible for written research, forecasts, and analysis in multiple practice areas covering managed print services, document solutions, business workflow automation and optimization, and hard copy transformation.

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