How utilizing new security features on your multifunction devices will help keep your sensitive documents safe Featured

8:00pm EDT March 26, 2010

Unless properly secured, the multifunction print, copy, scan and fax devices in your office can be a gateway to sensitive data.

“The copiers are all connected to the network, which is connected to the Internet,” says Mari Sloan, director of GEM accounts at Toshiba Business Solutions. “So a technically oriented hacker can get into your network.”

Today’s hackers get smarter and more devious every day. They now know that there’s no need to fight through the security you have for your databases when they can just hack into the copier and find all the information that’s ever been printed and copied.

Smart Business spoke with Sloan about security technology and other new features available in today’s multifunction devices (MFDs).

Why should companies be concerned about printer and copier security?

The numbers don’t lie. One in five security breaches come from inside the organization, and more than 50 percent of identity thefts happen in the workplace. An unsecured MFD can be one of the greatest threats to your organization. The copier you have most likely has a hard drive, and every single thing you print and copy on that machine is still on the hard drive.

Imagine you’re a mortgage company that processes copies of W-2s, birth certificates, social security numbers and employment information, or a medical facility with patient records that are supposed to be protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). All of that sensitive information is just sitting there on your device’s hard drive, giving hackers an easy target.

How can you improve security on your printing devices?

You need four points: device security, access security, document security and end-of-life security. For device security, today’s multifunction devices need advanced encryption, and there are two ways to do this. The first option is to encrypt the data on the device’s hard drive. The second option is a feature called data overwrite. With this feature, the moment the print job is done, the data is overwritten on the hard drive.

To improve access security you must control access to the device. There are a few different ways that can be done, like using department codes or network authentication. Basically, the same user name and password you use on your computer that controls what you can and can’t see on the network can be utilized on an MFD.

The third point is document security. If you scan a PDF and send it over e-mail, that’s the easiest thing to intercept, open and read. Today’s MFDs can turn on 128-bit encryption password protection, so you would then be creating secure documents. There is also private printing. You can give the users the option to print with a pass code so documents don’t print until you get to the printer. If you’re a medical or financial institution with a lot of rules regarding personal information, you can force the machine to print privately so no documents could be printed and left on the tray.

Finally, you need to pick a partner that will help you create and implement an end-of-life security process to ensure the devices that leave your building are not leaving with sensitive data. Sometimes your devices don’t have those security measures on them, so you need to come up with a solution to get those hard drives cleansed before they go back to the lease company. The better partners in the industry can offer a solution to clients to cleanse the hard drives.

What other new features should businesses be aware of?

One of the new innovations in MFDs is a device that will actually be updated throughout the term of the lease. People want to lease their devices for a longer period but hesitate because they don’t want something that is going to be obsolete.

A popular new feature is the ability to create fillable forms. Every business has a lot of forms they use — sales orders, equipment requests, expense reimbursements, etc. — but they are often just hard copies, and today’s businesses need electronic copies, as well.

Another new feature is advanced scanning. Most systems have been able to scan to a PDF for a long time. There is nothing revolutionary there, but the most innovative multifunction devices now allow you to scan a hard copy document directly to Word or Excel or a variety of other formats, like a text-searchable PDF. Before, if you wanted to reuse some of the content from an old hard copy document, you were forced to retype it. But today’s newest copiers offer the ability to hit one button and have the document delivered in Word or Excel, which eliminates the need to retype documents.

If a law firm needed to search through a 200-page contract for a few keywords, a text-searchable PDF would find those words or phrases in the document, saving hours of time.

Another hot feature is color-enabled devices, which allow you to do marketing material on demand. In the past, you would have to go to a commercial printer to print your literature. But you can’t go to a commercial printer and buy 300 brochures. You have to buy thousands to get a reasonable cost per piece. Reports show as much as 40 percent of those preprinted pieces are discarded because they’re obsolete before they get used. By making custom brochures for each presentation or meeting, you increase your impact.