Print Management and Network Security

Print management can often be an annoyance for network operations managers and network administrators, especially if the enterprise or organization relies on their operating system’s native print spoolers. But beyond mere annoyance, insufficient print management can easily become a security risk for your organization’s sensitive data and materials.Print Management Vulnerabilities Many network operations managers and administrators would rather be working on things such as maintaining network integrity and security, rather than troubleshooting enterprise print problems. However, some network managers and admins may not realize that resolving poor print spool management can also increase network security.A crucial concern in print management and network security–considering today’s highly mobile work environments, which increasingly implement WAN’s to accommodate mobile users–is the print data that is “exposed” while sent from the end user’s machine to the printer over the WAN. Native OS print spoolers work extremely well in the capacity for which they’re designed. However, they’re only designed to accommodate a very narrow range of tasks, and accounting for WAN security is typically not one of them.

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The good news is that any high quality third-party print management solution will provide increased WAN security for print jobs. Plus Tech’s OM Plus print management software, for example, encrypts print jobs between OM Plus servers. This prevents the interception and compromise of sensitive documents by rogue employees or by neighboring or crawling computers with access to the WAN.Print Management Prevents Accidental Security CompromisesThis ability of print management solutions to control and manage user print privileges and printer performance can also prevent accidental compromises in document security. Using a native print spooler, a user may send print jobs to the wrong printer, meaning non-primary parties or departments could receive highly sensitive print jobs in their print tray by accident. For example, an HR documents containing social security numbers, salary information, or proposed changes in workforce personnel could print on the production floor rather than on the HR department’s internal printers.Unauthorized parties could then either wean information from the documents that they shouldn’t be seeing, or in a more benign scenario, they could simply dispose of it improperly or without the security/destruction measures appropriate to the document.Printer Problems and Solutions: Reading Between the Lines

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While these problems are relatively minor compared to more foreboding network security threats, one must consider these problems relatively. That is, the time that network managers, administrators and help desk staff spend working on or troubleshooting problems related to print management is time spent not working on other network vulnerabilities. The International Data Corporation (IDC) estimates that 40% of help desk calls are related to printing problems. When such a significant amount of resources are spent on a problem with such an easy solution, it becomes increasingly difficult for management to justify not implementing a third-party print management solution, particularly given the security concerns such a solution addresses.