On the same page: PCs, printers and the future of security

How PCs and printers collaborate to create a secure IT environment in an increasingly connected world

While security concerns around PCs and networks have loomed as an area of focus for some time, extending this process to include print security has sometimes been overlooked.

An IDC white paper, The Business Value of Printer Security, sponsored by HP, found that 80% of the companies surveyed indicated that IT security is important to their business processes, but only 59% of these companies stated that print security was as important.

However, the IDC paper then found that firms experienced up to six times fewer printer-related security breaches on average after deploying printer security solutions, while also saving money and staff time.

Security is more important than ever in a tech-enabled world where device proliferation is leading to complex multi-device and multi-platform infrastructures, with businesses focusing on becoming mobile organisations and meeting the demands of the workforce.

Printers handle sensitive data and as they have increased connectivity and functionality, they have become more vulnerable to malicious attacks. This is why the security of printers and the PCs they interact with is a more important issue than ever before.

It means businesses need secure printers, secure PCs and for both pieces of technology to work together to ensure full protection.

When attacks happen

The consequences of a security breach can be catastrophic to a business of any size. It can impact the firm’s reputation, resulting in lost business and revenue, while firms could face enormous penalties through compliance regulations.

Security breaches involve the process of an attacker first gathering intelligence about a firm’s data, before then starting to actively target systems and monitoring for any sign of compromise.

Then, once a foothold is established, the attack begins to spread through the organisation’s IT resources. The attacker can then gain access to sensitive information and extract it.

Common security attacks include malware, short for ‘malicious software’, an umbrella term for software designed to harm or perform unwanted actions, such as viruses, worms, Trojan horses and spyware. There is also phishing, where users are tricked into handing over information such as passwords and credit card numbers.

Beyond this there is also SQL injection attacks (SQLi), cross-site scripting (XSS), man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks and denial-of-service attacks, to name just a few further security threats.

Security by design

Due to the pervasive nature of security threats today and the expanded connectivity of business environments, having technology which is secure at inception is vital for staying secure.

Rather than just patching together infrastructure with security added on, businesses today and into the future need technology which is secure by design and cooperate together to create a protected environment.

For example, HP, which combined its PC and printer divisions into a single business unit in 2012, provides this approach through its Elite PCs with Intel Core vPro processors and enterprise LaserJet and PageWide printers range.

So what protections do they offer?

HP’s Elite Notebooks and PCs have hardened multifactor authentication, where users can fortify security with up to three authentication factors, including fingerprints and facial recognition.

The range has integrated privacy screens which make the display’s content appear dark to those around the laptop, so someone sitting next to a HP PC user is unable to perform ‘vision hacking’.

There is also HP’s Sure Click browser protection, which opens websites in a virtual machine to prevent malware from infecting the computer directly. HP’s self-healing Basic Input/Output System (BIOS) protection also automatically restores a BIOS to its previously safe state if it becomes corrupted.

In print condition

As for print security, according to IDC MarketScape’s 2017 Vendor Assessment, HP leads the industry in this space. The report stated: “HP Inc.’s approach to security takes the entire print and document infrastructure into account, beginning with locking down the device and extending into all aspects of device usage and content protection.”

HP’s enterprise range of printers can detect, protect and self-heal from attacks automatically by triggering a reboot.

After a reboot occurs, HP JetAdvantage Security Manager automatically assesses and, if necessary, remediates device security settings to comply with company policies.

A set of boot instructions are used to load critical hardware components and initiate firmware. If a compromised version is discovered, the device restarts using a safe ‘golden copy’ BIOS.

The printers also check for authentic firmware, while time intrusion detection monitors memory activity. Administrators can also be notified of any security events.

For HP’s channel partners, this provides the opportunity to offer customers PC and printer technology built with security in mind, which then collaborates for an extremely secure environment.

The future for PCs, printers and security is a highly connected one, where built-in security and collaboration between technologies is needed to keep businesses safe.

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