Pharos Insights Technical Overview

Pharos Insights Technical Overview

Printing is often a large, uncontrolled expense for organizations, especially those taking a decentralized approach to print. When individual offices, departments, or divisions are responsible for managing their own print—purchasing devices as they see fit, and managing supplies and maintenance—IT often doesn’t know what print devices are out there, much less understand the true cost of printing across the enterprise.

Pharos Insights is an analytics platform built on Pharos Cloud, a cloud-native print management and optimization platform designed to reduce the complexity of managing print for large enterprises. It provides the clarity and actionable intelligence needed by organizations to optimize their print environment and identify opportunities to reduce costs. Download the Pharos Insights Technical Overview to learn how it works.

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Pharos Secure Release Technical Overview

Pharos Secure Release: Technical Overview

Pharos Secure Release enables a print workflow that enhances document security, reduces overall print costs, and lowers environmental impact by requiring users to authenticate at the device to release submitted print jobs.

With Pharos Secure Release, employees submit print jobs from a workstation or mobile device on any network (company, home, public, cellular, etc.) to a single cloud-based print queue and release the print jobs at any Pharos-secured print device on the company network by authenticating at the device.

A cloud-based secure print workflow reduces waste and data leakage through print by preventing documents from being left abandoned at the printer or picked up before the user can retrieve them.

Download the Pharos Secure Release Technical Overview to learn how it works.

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Cloud Print Services, 2023 report by Quocirca

Cloud Print Services, 2023 report by Quocirca

Cloud print services and solutions encompass serverless printing, cloud-based print management and remote monitoring, and hybrid cloud print management platforms, which may be managed internally or by third-party managed print services (MPS) providers.

Cloud print services may also include other adjacent services and solutions around digitization, workflow, security, and collaboration.

This report highlights key market trends for cloud print services, covering offerings from both manufacturers and independent software vendors (ISVs). It draws on primary research conducted by Quocirca in 2023.


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Why Print Drivers Are Increasingly Becoming a Nightmare for Corporate IT

In July 2021, a report revealed that millions of computers dating back to 2005 contain a print driver that introduces a dangerous vulnerability, which cyberattackers could use to escalate system access privileges. This makes it possible for someone with no administrative access credentials to access restricted areas of a system and initiate an attack on a network and get access to sensitive data.

While the potential fallout of this vulnerability is huge, the discovery itself is not new. Print drivers have long been an attack vector for cybercriminals seeking to penetrate otherwise secure machines and networks. In addition, managing print drivers is time-consuming and cumbersome in hybrid and work-from-home environments, which leaves print driver security risks unmitigated.

By using a cloud-based print management solution, you can eliminate many of the challenges traditional print drivers present, as well as enjoy a convenient, straightforward experience—for both IT staff and employees.

Here’s why and how print drivers introduce vulnerabilities, the problems inherent in a traditional print infrastructure, and how a cloud print management solution creates a more productive, secure work environment.

The Traditional Print Environment Explained

In a traditional print environment, computers connect directly to the printer—through a network using an IP connection. When users connect via the network, they don’t have to physically connect their computer to the printer. Similar to other network-enabled connections, the printer and the computer are connected via Internet Protocol (IP). This enables the print job to go straight to the printer.

In addition, employees can install new drivers on their own computers, if this is something they’re allowed or able to do. Also, if all computers that connect to the network run the same operating system, a network admin can update all of the print drivers at the same time.

But this setup has disadvantages, too:

  • Admins and end-users spend considerable time installing drivers
  • When several people try to print at the same time, the system can get clogged up by all the traffic, resulting in the printer running out of buffer memory and not being able to print new jobs
  • It introduces vulnerabilities that allow hackers to escalate privileges. They then use these privileges to execute other attacks or access sensitive digital assets on your network

Traditional Print Driver Management’s Impact on Productivity

In addition to introducing security vulnerabilities, traditional print driver management can also significantly reduce productivity. IT admins are responsible for installing and updating print drivers across your organization. An install happens for various reasons, including:

  • Updates to improve functionality
  • Updates to address security vulnerabilities
  • Power outages that can damage the existing driver

Once an admin identifies the need for a new driver installation or update, they have to figure out which method to use, whether the update should be done on other machines as well, and how to fit this task into an already busy schedule. Installing and updating is not only time-consuming, but it can also pull IT staff away from other business-critical tasks.

Traditional Print Driver Management with a Remote or Hybrid Workforce

With more and more organizations incorporating remote or hybrid work options, it’s crucial to maintain an infrastructure that’s flexible and agile. Traditional print driver management is often incongruent with a remote or hybrid work ecosystem. It may not be feasible for admins to arrange and execute remote installs or initiate the videoconferences or Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) connections necessary for remote users to start printing. This negatively impacts your organization’s security posture. For example, it can allow printers that aren’t updated to the latest certified driver to be a part of your network, making the network insecure.

With a cloud print infrastructure, not only can users connect to the printing system and submit their jobs easily and quickly, but if an update is required, the cloud print management provider takes care of it. This can free up enormous amounts of time for IT, which they can invest in other important projects.

The Potential Vulnerabilities Print Drivers Introduce to Your Security Architecture

Print drivers consist of software that enables your computer to communicate with a printer. They make sure the printer is available to perform the job, that there’s a link between your computer and the printer, and that the job gets sent directly to the printer you’re trying to use.

You may remember when people had to install drivers for USB devices. Similar to print drivers, these made it possible for your computer to interact with the external USB device. But in addition to simply forming a link, the print driver enables the computer to exercise control over the printer.

Printer drivers are useful for giving users a wide range of printing options. However, print drivers also introduce multiple security risks, such as basic default credentials, printing without permissions to unsecured printers, unauthorized configuration changes, and unauthorized data access and recovery.

If hackers exploit these vulnerabilities, they could install applications and create new user accounts, as well as access, change, delete, or encrypt data.

How Print Drivers Introduce Vulnerabilities

On Windows machines, in particular, vendor-provided drivers increase the chance of a vulnerability making it into your network. Because of the way the Windows system handles driver deployment, admins must implement print drivers as a shared resource using common protocols. IT teams may find it difficult to choose print drivers with adequate security measures, providing bad actors with a path to propagate their malicious payload across the network.

For instance, commonly used protocols, such as the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP), can be subject to man-in-the-middle attacks. During this kind of attack, a hacker transmits a large number of SNMP queries using a fake IP address to the printer, which the printer replies to. This paves the way for the hacker to take control of the printer. Once they have the control, they can manipulate print job schedules so they can physically steal sensitive documents later.

However, a far more dangerous vulnerability exists on printers with the ability to email scanned documents to users. An attacker can use the printer’s emailing capabilities to launch phishing attacks. These may be even more effective than typical spam-based phishing emails because they could look like they came from a trusted device: your printer.

In this kind of attack, the bad actor can leverage the control they gain over the printer via the SNMP protocol to send an email—one that looks like it came from the printer—to someone in your organization. The email could contain a link that downloads malware onto their computer or lead them to a site where they’re asked to enter sensitive login credentials. Because it seems like the message is sent by the printer, the victim may be caught off guard.

On the other hand, with cloud-based printing, you don’t have to depend on manufacturer-provided drivers or a network admin properly setting up all communication protocols for your organization to be able to print securely. You get secure, reliable printing at the get-go because print drivers and print driver management are no longer part of the equation.

Reducing Print Driver Vulnerabilities with a Cloud Printing Infrastructure

With a cloud printing infrastructure, you can reduce the possibility of printer vulnerabilities, such as PrintNightmare or lesser-known bugs like CVE-2021-3438, impacting your system. In general, this is how cloud-based printing works:

  • An admin installs an agent on each computer and device employees use for printing, which makes it possible for each device to print
  • An application on the network enables computers connected to it to access the cloud
  • The client agent on the computer or device buffers the job, storing it until it’s ready to go to the printer or uploading it to the cloud so it can be printed later

This process makes it possible for the document to be printed either from the cloud or directly from the user’s computer.

As a result, you eliminate the on-premises driver “middleman,” effectively removing a prime target for attackers. Cloud print infrastructure is more secure because the print data and information contained in documents gets sent directly to the cloud service using end-to-end encryption. Even if a hacker intercepts the data stream, they wouldn’t be able to read sensitive documents without the decryption key. In addition, you can configure your cloud-based printing solution to only print documents if a specific user is physically present at the printer. This prevents passersby or information thieves from getting their eyes on sensitive information.

Secure Cloud-Based Printing with Pharos Cloud

A cloud-based print solution such as Pharos Cloud manages the entire print infrastructure. It uses a universal print driver that is compatible with thousands of different printers. In this way, you have one single driver that can control multiple printers from different manufacturers. This comes with key advantages:

  • Security: Because Pharos Cloud handles driver management, users or IT don’t have to find the drivers to install on their devices, which could otherwise introduce a vulnerability.
  • Convenience:Instead of IT having to install drivers on multiple computers every time there’s an update, Pharos Cloud eliminates the need to install drivers across your environment.
  • Increased productivity: Network admins don’t have to spend time manually installing new drivers and updates, freeing them up to work on more pressing projects.
  • Easy print provisioning for remote employees: With a cloud-based solution, it’s fast and easy to add new users because there’s no need to physically be in front of their computer or device. Your IT team can handle print management remotely.

To learn more about how your organization can benefit from cloud-based printing, request a demo of Pharos Cloud today.

Secure Printing Solutions to Safeguard Your Sensitive Documents

In the digital age, the importance of secure printing cannot be overstated. With the rapid proliferation of technology and the increasing reliance on electronic communication, businesses and organizations must take additional measures to protect their sensitive documents and confidential information from unauthorized access. Despite the shift towards paperless offices, hard copies of critical data still play an essential role in many industries, such as finance, healthcare, and legal services.

The consequences of unsecured printing can be dire. Security breaches resulting from the mishandling of printed documents can lead to data leaks, financial loss, reputational damage, and even legal penalties. Moreover, cybercriminals are continually seeking new ways to exploit vulnerabilities in printing environments, making it more critical than ever to implement robust secure printing solutions.

In this context, secure printing involves deploying strategies and technologies designed to safeguard sensitive information throughout the entire printing process. This includes measures to prevent unauthorized users from accessing print jobs, securely storing printed documents, and maintaining a comprehensive audit trail of all printing activities. By embracing secure printing practices, businesses and organizations can protect their valuable assets, comply with industry-specific regulations, and instill confidence in their clients and partners that their information is being treated with the utmost care.

Understanding Secure Printing

Secure printing refers to the process of protecting sensitive documents and confidential information from unauthorized access during the printing and handling of physical copies.

It encompasses various strategies, technologies, and best practices designed to ensure that only authorized personnel can access, retrieve, and view the printed materials. Secure printing solutions can include features such as user authentication, print release, data encryption, audit trails, and reporting. 

By implementing secure printing measures, businesses can minimize the risk of data breaches, comply with industry-specific regulations, and enhance their reputation for maintaining the highest standards of data security.

Why secure printing is crucial for businesses

In today’s highly connected world, businesses of all sizes must prioritize data security to protect their valuable assets and maintain their clients’ trust. While many organizations have taken steps to secure their digital environments, they often overlook the potential vulnerabilities in their printing processes. Secure printing is crucial for businesses for several reasons:

Protection of Sensitive Information

Whether it’s financial data, customer records, or proprietary research, businesses handle a wealth of sensitive information every day. Ensuring the security of this information extends beyond digital files and includes the printed documents that employees and stakeholders rely on for various tasks.

Compliance with Industry Regulations 

Many industries, such as finance, healthcare, and legal services, have strict regulations in place to protect consumer data and maintain confidentiality. Secure printing is essential for businesses to comply with these regulations and avoid costly fines and legal penalties.

Maintaining Reputation and Trust 

A data breach caused by unsecured printing can damage a company’s reputation, erode customer trust, and even result in the loss of business. By implementing secure printing solutions, organizations can demonstrate their commitment to protecting sensitive information and fostering a culture of security.

Prevention of Insider Threats 

Employees, contractors, and other insiders can pose significant risks to an organization’s data security. Secure printing measures can help prevent unauthorized individuals from accessing, copying, or distributing sensitive documents, reducing the likelihood of data leaks or theft.

Common threats in printing environments

Several threats can compromise the security of printed documents in a business environment. Some of the most common risks include:

Unauthorized Access

Without proper security measures in place, unauthorized users may access sensitive print jobs and view or distribute confidential information. This can happen when an employee prints a document to a shared printer and walks away, leaving the document unattended and vulnerable to theft.

Print Job Interception

Cybercriminals can exploit vulnerabilities in a networked printer to intercept print jobs as they’re transmitted from a computer to the printer. Once intercepted, the attacker can steal, alter, or even reroute the print job to a different location.

Printer Storage Breaches

Modern printers often have internal storage that retains a copy of printed documents. If the printer’s storage is not properly secured or wiped, cybercriminals can access these documents and retrieve sensitive information.

Document Disposal

Improper disposal of printed documents can lead to security breaches. Confidential information can be exposed if discarded documents are not shredded or otherwise destroyed in a manner that prevents unauthorized access.

Social Engineering Attacks

Attackers may use social engineering tactics to manipulate employees into providing access to sensitive print jobs or to reveal information about an organization’s printing processes. For example, an attacker may pose as a technician or a colleague to convince an employee to release a print job without proper authentication.

Insecure Mobile Printing

With the rise of mobile devices and remote work, employees increasingly print documents from their smartphones or tablets. If mobile printing is not secured, sensitive data can be exposed during transmission or when the document is printed.

To mitigate these risks and ensure the security of printed documents, organizations must invest in comprehensive secure printing.

Essential Features of Secure Printing Solutions

A robust secure printing solution helps organizations protect sensitive information, comply with industry regulations, and maintain the trust of their clients and stakeholders. To be effective, a secure printing solution must include a range of features designed to safeguard data at every stage of the printing process. The following are five essential features to consider when evaluating secure printing solutions:

User authentication

User authentication is a critical component of secure printing solutions, as it ensures that only authorized individuals can access and print sensitive documents. There are several methods of user authentication, including (but not limited to):

Username and Password

Users must provide a unique username and password combination to access the printing system. This method is simple to implement but can be less secure if users share their credentials or fail to create strong passwords.

ID Cards and Badges

Physical ID cards or badges embedded with magnetic stripes, barcodes, or RFID chips can be used to authenticate users at the printer. This method is more secure than relying on usernames and passwords, as it requires users to possess a physical token.

Mobile Authentication

With mobile authentication, users can use their mobile devices to scan a QR code displayed on the print device, which then sends a verification request to a secure mobile app. Once the user confirms their identity within the app, the print job is authenticated, and the document is released. This method is convenient, as it leverages the user’s mobile device, which is typically always at hand, and adds an additional layer of security by requiring the user to confirm their identity through the mobile app.

By implementing user authentication, organizations can prevent unauthorized access to sensitive print jobs and maintain control over who can print specific documents.

Secure print release

Secure print release is another vital feature of secure printing solutions. It ensures that printed documents are not left unattended at the printer, where they can be easily accessed by unauthorized individuals. Secure print release requires users to confirm their identity at the printer before a document is printed, either by entering a unique PIN or using an ID card, badge, or biometric authentication method.

Some secure printing solutions also offer “pull printing” or “follow-me printing” functionality, which allows users to send print jobs to a centralized queue and release them at any compatible printer within the network. This feature not only enhances security by ensuring that users are present when documents are printed but also improves efficiency by reducing the occurrence of unclaimed or duplicate print jobs.

Data encryption

Data encryption is essential for protecting sensitive information as it’s transmitted from a user’s computer to the printer. Secure printing solutions should employ robust encryption protocols, such as Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) or Transport Layer Security (TLS), to encrypt print jobs and prevent unauthorized access during transmission. Additionally, some solutions offer encryption for the printer’s internal storage, ensuring that any residual data stored on the printer is protected from unauthorized access.

Audit trails and reporting

Comprehensive audit trails and reporting capabilities are essential for monitoring and managing secure printing environments. Audit trails record all printing activities, including details about the user, the document, the printer, and the time and date of the print job. These logs can be invaluable for identifying potential security breaches, investigating unauthorized access, and ensuring compliance with industry regulations.

Reporting tools can analyze audit trail data to provide insights into printing patterns, identify potential areas of concern, and help organizations optimize their printing processes. Reports may include information on user activity, printer usage, print volumes, and security incidents. By regularly reviewing and analyzing these reports, organizations can proactively address potential vulnerabilities and continually improve their secure printing practices.

Mobile printing security

With the increasing prevalence of mobile devices and remote work, secure mobile printing has become a crucial component of any comprehensive secure printing solution. Mobile printing security involves protecting sensitive data as it’s transmitted from smartphones or tablets to the printer, as well as ensuring that only authorized users can access and print documents from their mobile devices.

To achieve secure mobile printing, organizations should consider the following:

Use of Secure Printing Apps

Encourage employees to use secure printing apps that support encrypted data transmission and require user authentication. These apps help maintain the same level of security as printing from a desktop computer while offering the convenience of printing from mobile devices.

Mobile Authentication

With mobile authentication, users can use their mobile devices to scan a QR code displayed on the print device, which then sends a verification request to a secure mobile app. Once the user confirms their identity within the app, the print job is authenticated, and the document is released. This method is convenient, as it leverages the user’s mobile device, which is typically always at hand, and adds an additional layer of security by requiring the user to confirm their identity through the mobile app.

Network Security

Ensure that the wireless network used for mobile printing is secure, using encryption protocols such as WPA2 or WPA3. Additionally, consider segmenting the network to separate mobile printing traffic from other network activities, reducing the risk of unauthorized access.

Device Management

Implement mobile device management (MDM) solutions to control access to corporate resources, including printers, from mobile devices. MDM can help enforce security policies, monitor device usage, and remotely wipe data from lost or stolen devices.

Training and Awareness

Educate employees about the risks associated with mobile printing and the best practices for maintaining security. This includes using secure apps, authenticating print jobs, and following the organization’s mobile device policies.

By incorporating these strategies, organizations can enable secure mobile printing while maintaining the same level of data protection as traditional printing methods.

Pharos Secure Release

Pharos Secure Release is a feature of Pharos Systems’ print management solutions that ensures printed documents are only accessible to authorized users. This feature adds an extra layer of security to the printing process by requiring users to authenticate themselves at the printer before the documents are released for printing.

By implementing Pharos Secure Release, organizations can prevent sensitive or confidential documents from being left unattended at the printer, reducing the risk of unauthorized access or information leaks. The feature can be used in conjunction with various authentication methods, such as PINs, ID cards, or mobile devices, to provide a secure and convenient printing experience for users.

Key Features

Pharos Secure Release, as a part of Pharos Systems’ print management solutions, offers several features designed to enhance the security and efficiency of the printing process:

User Authentication

Secure Release requires users to authenticate themselves at the printer before their print jobs are released. This can be done using various methods, such as PINs, ID cards, or mobile devices, ensuring that only authorized users can access and print sensitive documents.

Print Job Encryption

Pharos Secure Release helps protect print jobs by encrypting the data as it is transmitted from the user’s computer to the printer, ensuring that sensitive information remains secure during transmission.

Pull Printing or Follow-Me Printing

Secure Release allows users to send their print jobs to a centralized queue, which can be accessed from any compatible printer within the network. This feature not only enhances security by requiring user presence at the printer but also improves efficiency by reducing the occurrence of unclaimed or duplicate print jobs.

Audit Trails and Reporting

Secure Release provides comprehensive audit trails and reporting capabilities, allowing organizations to monitor printing activities, identify potential security breaches, and ensure compliance with industry regulations.

Integration with Print Management Solutions

Pharos Secure Release seamlessly integrates with Pharos Systems’ print management solutions, offering a unified and secure printing environment for organizations.

By implementing Pharos Secure Release, organizations can significantly enhance the security of their printing processes, safeguard sensitive information, and maintain the trust of their clients and stakeholders.

Pros and Cons

Pharos Secure Release offers various benefits and potential drawbacks for organizations looking to improve their printing security. Here are some pros and cons to consider:

Pros

Enhanced Security: By requiring user authentication at the printer, Pharos Secure Release helps prevent unauthorized access to sensitive print jobs, reducing the risk of information leaks.

Improved Efficiency: With pull printing or follow-me printing features, Secure Release can help minimize unclaimed or duplicate print jobs, leading to cost savings on paper, ink, and overall printer maintenance.

Compliance: Secure Release’s audit trails and reporting capabilities allow organizations to monitor printing activities, ensuring compliance with industry regulations and internal policies.

Integration: Pharos Secure Release integrates seamlessly with Pharos Systems’ print management solutions, creating a unified and secure printing environment.

User Convenience: Users can send their print jobs to a centralized queue and release them from any compatible printer within the network, making the printing process more convenient and flexible.

Cons:

Implementation Costs: Organizations may need to invest in upgrading their existing printer infrastructure and implementing Pharos Secure Release, which could entail initial costs.

Learning Curve: Users might need some time to adapt to the new printing workflow, requiring training and awareness programs to help them understand the authentication process and the benefits of Secure Release.

Compatibility: In some cases, Pharos Secure Release may not be compatible with legacy printing environments or specific printer models, necessitating further investment in compatible hardware.

Dependency on Authentication Methods: The security of Pharos Secure Release depends on the chosen authentication method. For example, if users share their PINs or lose their ID cards, the system’s security could be compromised.

Overall, Pharos Secure Release offers significant benefits in terms of security, efficiency, and compliance. However, organizations should carefully consider the potential drawbacks and ensure that their chosen authentication methods and hardware infrastructure are compatible with the solution.

How to Choose the Right Secure Printing Solution

Evaluate your organization’s needs

Before selecting a secure printing solution, it’s essential to understand your organization’s specific requirements. Consider factors like the size of your company, the number of users, the sensitivity of the documents you handle, and any industry-specific regulations you need to comply with. This evaluation will help you identify the critical features and security measures required to address your organization’s needs effectively.

Compare features and pricing

Once you have a clear understanding of your needs, compare different secure printing solutions based on their features, capabilities, and pricing. Look for solutions that offer essential features like user authentication, secure print release, data encryption, and audit trails. Ensure the pricing structure aligns with your budget and offers a good balance between cost and functionality.

Considering scalability and future growth

As your organization grows, your secure printing needs may change. Therefore, it’s crucial to choose a solution that can scale with your business. Opt for solutions that can easily accommodate an increasing number of users, devices, and locations without requiring significant investment in infrastructure or additional software licenses.

Assessing compatibility with existing infrastructure

The chosen secure printing solution should be compatible with your organization’s existing IT infrastructure, including hardware, software, and network configurations. Compatibility ensures a smooth implementation process and minimizes potential disruptions to your daily operations. Check for compatibility with your current printer models, operating systems, and any other relevant technologies in your environment.

Prioritizing user-friendliness and customer support

A secure printing solution should be easy to use for employees, as this encourages adoption and minimizes the risk of security breaches due to user error. Look for solutions with intuitive interfaces and straightforward authentication processes. Additionally, prioritize solutions that provide reliable customer support through various channels like phone, email, and live chat. This ensures that you have access to help when needed, making it easier to address any issues or concerns that arise during implementation or ongoing use.

Choosing the right secure printing solution involves evaluating your organization’s needs, comparing features and pricing, considering scalability, assessing compatibility, and prioritizing user-friendliness and customer support. By carefully considering these factors, you can select a solution that effectively safeguards your sensitive information while offering a convenient and efficient printing experience for your employees.

Implementing a Secure Printing Solution

A secure printing solution is vital for protecting sensitive information within an organization. This process involves creating a comprehensive policy, training employees on best practices, and continuously monitoring and updating the security measures in place.

Developing a secure printing policy

Identify sensitive information

Begin by identifying the types of information that need protection, such as financial data, customer information, or intellectual property. This will help you determine the appropriate security measures for different types of documents.

Define access levels

Establish different access levels based on job roles and responsibilities. Ensure that only authorized personnel have access to sensitive documents, and implement a user authentication system, such as card readers or biometric scanners.

Encryption

Encrypt sensitive documents during storage and transmission to prevent unauthorized access. Make sure your printers support secure data encryption and use encrypted communication protocols like SSL/TLS.

Secure printing features

Use printers with built-in secure printing features, such as pull printing or secure release. These features require users to authenticate at the printer before their documents are released, minimizing the risk of sensitive information being left unattended.

Document disposal

Implement a policy for secure disposal of printed documents, which may include shredding or using secure recycling services.

Training employees on secure printing practices

Educate employees

Regularly provide training sessions on secure printing practices, highlighting the importance of protecting sensitive information and the potential consequences of mishandling documents.

Best practices

Teach employees how to use secure printing features, such as selecting the appropriate settings on their devices and authenticating themselves at the printer.

Reporting incidents

Encourage employees to report any suspicious activity or security breaches related to printing, and provide clear instructions on how to do so.

Monitoring and updating your secure printing solution

Regular audits

Conduct periodic audits of your secure printing solution to ensure compliance with your policies and identify potential vulnerabilities.

Update software and hardware

Keep your printers and related software up-to-date to protect against newly discovered security threats. This includes installing firmware updates, patches, and security updates as they become available.

Monitor usage

Track printer usage and document access to detect unusual patterns or unauthorized access. Utilize printer logs and access control systems to monitor user activity and maintain a secure printing environment.

Review and adapt

Regularly review your secure printing policy and practices, and make adjustments as needed to address new risks or changes within your organization. Stay informed about the latest developments in secure printing technologies and best practices to ensure ongoing protection of your sensitive information.

By following these steps, your organization can implement a secure printing solution that protects sensitive information and minimizes the risk of security breaches. Regular training, monitoring, and updates will ensure the continued effectiveness of your secure printing policy.

Getting Started with Secure Printing

Secure printing is essential for protecting sensitive information within an organization, preventing unauthorized access, and ensuring compliance with data privacy regulations. By implementing a secure printing solution, you can safeguard your company’s valuable data, maintain customer trust, and avoid costly breaches or legal consequences.

Investing in a secure printing solution is a crucial step towards a comprehensive information security strategy. The potential financial and reputational damage resulting from mishandled sensitive information far outweighs the initial investment. A secure printing solution not only offers peace of mind but also demonstrates your organization’s commitment to data protection and compliance.

Now is the time to take action and explore secure printing solutions that suit your organization’s needs. Begin by evaluating your current printing environment, identifying potential vulnerabilities, and researching available technologies and best practices. Consult with experts or vendors specializing in secure printing to find the right solution for your organization, and take the necessary steps to safeguard your valuable data from potential breaches. Don’t wait until it’s too late; act now to protect your organization’s sensitive information.

The Fundamentals of Printer Security

In many organizations, printers are unmonitored endpoints, making them a prime target — both for hackers and government officials aiming to boost cybersecurity. The president of the United States, Joe Biden, issued an executive order in January 2022 that stipulates a need for stronger endpoint detection services for government networks. Like other endpoints, hackers can use printers to infiltrate networks.

For example, in a gray hat hack, the cybersecurity team of CyberNews broke into 27,944 printers worldwide. Once inside, they forced each printer to print out a guide on making printing more secure. The top of the document reads, “This printer has been hacked. Here’s how to secure it.” A few elements of the “attack” are particularly sobering.

First, the hackers were able to penetrate 56% of the printers they targeted, which speaks volumes about the number of unsecured printers spread throughout the world’s offices. The attackers chose to limit the scope of their operation. Even though they could gain access to other features and sensitive data stored on the printers, they decided not to. A malicious attacker might not be so gracious. Here’s a straightforward breakdown of the security concerns posed by printers, why it’s essential to take them seriously, and how to make your print infrastructure more secure.

Security Concerns for Printers

As the CyberNews hack makes it all too clear, printers can provide an entry point into internal networks. Organizations that go to great lengths to train employees to avoid phishing attacks and credential theft may still be caught off guard by a printer hack.

The threat is particularly acute because a successful printer hack can allow attackers to persist unnoticed for months or longer. While they’re in your system, they may be able to see printed documents.

This is great news — for hackers. Suppose an attacker has gained access to one or more printers in your corporate office, and they can read the documents that are being printed. Anything that gets sent for printing, customer and employee data, company secrets, financial information, and more, is in full sight. And because the hackers can stay in the system for an extended period, they can simply wait until high-value pieces of information get sent for printing. Once that happens, they can use what they find to extort your organization, commit fraud or theft, or peddle it to someone else on the dark web.

Do You Need to Worry About Printer Security?

For these reasons, printer security should be a top priority for every organization. Not only are printers attractive targets due to the information that flows through them, but hacking them is relatively easy.

For example, Shodan, a search engine that finds internet of things (IoT) devices, is just a click away. The CyberNews team used this tool to identify vulnerable printers. The hackers only have to look for IP addresses with open ports and then confirm that they are, indeed, printers. While attackers may not specifically target your organization, they can use a search engine like Shodan to execute a query that could give them access to your printers.

The Dangers Posed by Remote Work Environments

Remote work has further increased the attack surface, specifically because it has presented more remote connections. Each employee that connects from home, therefore, may introduce a vulnerability. For example, remote workers may:

  • Print out sensitive work documents on home printers that haven’t been secured against attackers who could use tactics like the CyberNews hack to view them
  • Store sensitive documents in their printers’ queues, which can also be accessed by hackers
  • Travel to internet cafes or hotel business centers and print out sensitive documents to unsecured printers

Even industrious, trusted employees can make these kinds of mistakes. These oversights can expose your organization to attacks that would be much harder to execute in an in-office environment.

How Do You Make Cloud Print Solutions Secure?

In many ways, the answer is simple. After all, cloud printing is already more secure than an on-premise solution because it eliminates core vulnerabilities that come with a traditional print environment. But similar to a traditional environment, your first steps are to assess risk and use best practices.

Assess Risk

Assessing your risks is the first step in securing your print infrastructure because it gives you a more complete view of your attack surface. For example, you can ask questions such as:

  • How many remote employees connect to our network, and are they allowed to print at home?
  • What kinds of sensitive documents does our organization print?
  • Which departments tend to print documents that could attract hackers?
  • What security tools do we use to safeguard our print system?

Deploy Best Practices

Best practices that encourage a more secure print environment include:

  • Making sure employees safeguard any usernames and passwords they use to access your print system
  • Using multi-factor authentication for everyone who can print
  • Training employees about the ways hackers may try to access your print infrastructure and the kinds of information they may be after
  • Using a secure release system that ensures the person printing a document is present at the printer when it comes out

With a cloud print solution, it’s easier to address your risks and deploy best practices because it enables you to:

Eliminate Print Server Vulnerabilities

A cloud printing solution eliminates some vulnerabilities associated with an on-premise print server — such as malware spreading through your computers via an on-prem print server — because print management is orchestrated in a secure cloud environment. Also, some organizations may forget to update their print servers regularly. This can leave them vulnerable to hackers. According to a document produced by hackers for the Black Hat USA conference, hackers can execute denial-of-service, protection bypass, print job manipulation, and information disclosure attacks once inside your print server.

Implement End-to-End Encryption

With a cloud print infrastructure complete with end-to-end encryption, all sent data is encrypted. Without a decryption key, an attacker wouldn’t be able to read the information being sent. In this way, you help secure sensitive data in documents. Even if a hacker were to intercept something sent for printing, they would only get a jumbled hodge-podge of characters.

Perhaps a remote employee needs to send a printing job from a coffee shop to the office. With an encrypted cloud printing solution, they could do so without worrying about a hacker stealing it. A malicious actor using a man-in-the-middle attack wouldn’t be able to read the data they stole.

Deploy Zero-Trust

Zero-trust architecture presumes that every user, device, and network is a threat—and they remain so until they prove otherwise. With a cloud printing solution, you can ensure that people aren’t allowed to access your system unless they can provide multiple proofs of identity, including physical devices, biometric data, and things they know, such as passwords. You can also use a cloud printing environment to limit the devices allowed to send print jobs. Taking these steps can considerably shrink your attack surface.

Protect Sensitive Documents with Authenticated Print Release

Protecting sensitive documents is essential because it can protect:

  • Proprietary information that gets printed out
  • Employee identification data they or the HR department prints out
  • Data protected by government regulations, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
  • Customer, patient, or student information sent to printers

Far too often, these kinds of documents end up in the wrong place at the wrong time — and in front of the wrong eyes. They are frequently left in printer output trays or piled on top of equipment or tables in offices without secure printing, where anyone can see them. This is both wasteful and risky.

But by using an authenticated print release system, you can keep the info in these documents safe. This secure printing procedure ensures that only authorized users have access to your printers, safeguarding the privacy of your important data.

How Authenticated Print Release Works

When you require authentication to release print jobs, you make it so an authorized user, such as the person who sent the job, must be physically present at the printer before the document gets printed.

For instance, if someone from HR had to print a document that contained an employee’s social security number, they could use secure release to ensure it stays in the print queue until they’re in front of the printer. 

The HR employee can bring a mobile device and scan a QR code attached to the printer. After the system authenticates the user, their document is immediately released from a secure queue.

To ensure document security or to simply finish crucial business activities, you can even submit print jobs from home, arranging for document release when a trustworthy colleague is present at the network device to collect it.

How Pharos Creates a Secure Printing Environment

With Pharos, you get a cloud printing solution that enhances both security and convenience. You can choose whether you want to send print jobs to the cloud or directly to the printer using IPPS or IPP protocols.

Pharos Secure Release print jobs can be saved in the cloud or on-premises. The Secure Release system can ensure an authorized user is at the printer to receive the document. Leveraging industry standards, Pharos Cloud also secures data with end-to-end encryption and encrypts any print jobs that are at rest but pending release to a secured printer.

To make it easier to implement a zero-trust policy, Pharos Cloud also verifies the identity of a user before enabling them to print by requiring an identity token and additional authentication if needed. By combining these features, you can create a more secure print infrastructure with Pharos.

Printer Security Risks

Printers Present Security Risks

It’s not news that network printers can pose risks to your organization’s security.

Printers can pose cybersecurity risks because they are often connected to networks and can potentially be accessed by unauthorized users.

Hackers may be able to gain access to sensitive information that is printed or stored on the printer.

In addition, malware can be transmitted through printer networks, which can compromise the security of the entire system. It is important to regularly update the firmware and security software on printers to reduce the risk of a cyber attack. It is also recommended to use strong passwords and to limit access to printers to only authorized users.

Read a More In-Depth Article on Printers and Cybersecurity

Printer Security Risks: A List

There are many vulnerabilities that can exist in a network print environment, and it is difficult to rank them in terms of importance or prevalence. Some common vulnerabilities include:

  1. Unsecured network connections: If the connection between the printer and the network is not encrypted, sensitive information may be transmitted in plaintext and be vulnerable to interception.
  2. Unsecured wireless connections: If the printer has a wireless connection, it is important to ensure that it is properly secured with a strong password (**be sure to change the default password, as they are typically extremely weak** See #4 below) to prevent unauthorized access.
  3. Outdated or unpatched software: It is essential to keep the printer’s software up-to-date in order to protect against known vulnerabilities.
  4. Default or weak passwords: Printers often come with default passwords that are easy to guess or are not changed by the user, which can make it easy for attackers to gain access.
  5. Lack of access controls: If the printer is not properly configured to limit access to authorized users, it may be possible for unauthorized individuals to access or modify print jobs.
  6. Lack of activity logging: Without proper logging, it may be difficult to determine if any unauthorized activity has occurred on the printer or network.
  7. Use of unsecured protocols: If the printer is using an unsecured protocol like Telnet or FTP, it may be possible for attackers to intercept and read the data being transmitted.
  8. Insecure firmware: If the printer’s firmware is not properly secured, it may be possible for an attacker to gain access to the printer and modify its settings or behavior.
  9. Lack of network segregation: If the printer is not isolated on a separate network or VLAN, it may be possible for an attacker to gain access to other devices on the same network.
  10. Unsecured print servers: If the printer is connected to a print server, it is important to ensure that the server is properly secured to prevent unauthorized access to the printer.
  11. Lack of physical security: If the printer is not physically secured, it may be possible for an unauthorized individual to gain access to it and modify its settings or steal sensitive information.
  12. Inadequate user training: If users are not trained on how to properly use the printer and identify potential threats, it may be easier for an attacker to gain access to the printer or network.
  13. Unsecured print jobs: If print jobs are not properly secured, it may be possible for an attacker to intercept and read sensitive information.
  14. Unsecured hard drives: If the printer has a hard drive, it is important to ensure that it is properly encrypted to prevent unauthorized access to the data stored on it.
  15. Lack of update management: If the printer is not properly configured to receive and install updates, it may be vulnerable to known vulnerabilities.
  16. Unsecured web-based management interfaces: If the printer has a web-based management interface, it is important to ensure that it is properly secured to prevent unauthorized access.
  17. Insufficient security testing: If the printer has not been thoroughly tested for vulnerabilities, it may be at risk for exploitation.
  18. Unsecured fax transmission: If the printer has a fax capability, it is important to ensure that fax transmissions are properly encrypted to prevent interception.
  19. Unsecured document storage: If the printer has the ability to store documents, it is important to ensure that these documents are properly secured to prevent unauthorized access.
  20. Unsecured remote access: If the printer allows for remote access, it is important to ensure that this access is properly secured to prevent unauthorized access.

Additional Resources

Printer security is an important topic for all organizations. Find more resources below and continue reading:

PrintNightmare: Securing Your Print Infrastructure

Introduction

Since 2021, the “PrintNightmare” issue has become a topic of concern. This class of vulnerabilities affects Windows-based devices, including servers, desktops, and laptops. The vulnerabilities are found in the print spooler service, which is enabled by default and responsible for managing printers and printing documents. This article aims to explore the PrintNightmare problem, its implications, and long-term solutions to secure your print infrastructure.

The Print Nightmare Story

Understanding the Problem

In June of 2021, a vulnerability in Microsoft’s print spooler software, known as CVE-2021-34527 or “PrintNightmare,” was identified. This vulnerability allows remote network access to exploit the system, gaining privileged access rights and executing malicious code. It poses a significant risk as attackers can remotely control the affected system, potentially stealing sensitive data or disrupting operations.

Print Spooler Service: A Brief Overview

The print spooler service is responsible for managing printer connections and operations on Windows-based devices. It facilitates communication between the device and printers, ensuring compatibility by downloading and installing the required printer drivers. Additionally, it handles print jobs by organizing queues, prioritizing tasks, and buffering data into the printer’s memory.

Domain controllers also utilize the print spooler service for managing printers on a network. However, this introduces a security vulnerability, as any authenticated user can remotely connect to the print spooler service of a domain controller, compromising network security controls.

The print spooler service also allows Windows devices to act as print clients or print servers. While this ease of use is convenient, it grants privileged access to the print spooler service across the entire network, bypassing security controls and automatically updating printer drivers.

The Risk with PrintNightmare

The PrintNightmare vulnerability enables attackers external to the network to upload malicious code disguised as a Dynamic-link Library (DLL). This code can be executed with administrator privileges across the network, providing an entry point for further attacks and potential data exfiltration. The presence of proof-of-concept code circulating in the hacker community further exacerbates this risk.

Continuing Challenges

Although efforts have been made to patch the PrintNightmare vulnerability, new flaws in the Windows print spooler service continue to be identified. These vulnerabilities, such as CVE-2021-34481, pose critical risks, including local privilege escalation and potential Remote Code Execution (RCE) exploits. To mitigate these risks, it is recommended to temporarily stop and disable the print spooler service until all security patches are applied.

Long-Term Protective Measures Against PrintNightmare

Option 1: Patching and Praying

Keeping up with security patches for printer spooler service vulnerabilities provides a level of protection. However, the existence of well-resourced hackers who exploit vulnerabilities before patches are released poses a significant risk. Organizations must consider the potential consequences of falling victim to attacks targeting their intellectual property or sensitive information.

Option 2: Moving Print Services to a Secure Cloud-Based Solution

To effectively address the vulnerabilities introduced by Windows-based print servers, a long-term solution should eliminate the inherent weaknesses. Migrating print services to a secure cloud-based print management solution offers several advantages:

  1. Elimination of Printer Driver Management: Legacy communication protocols used by printer drivers often introduce security vulnerabilities. A cloud-based solution that eliminates the reliance on manufacturer drivers ensures secure connectivity by default.
  2. Improved Security Controls: By using a cloud-based service, the need for network-wide access and exceptions for print services is eliminated. This simplifies configuration and enhances overall security.
  3. Mitigation of Legacy Protocol Risks: Older operating systems rely on legacy print protocols that can be exploited. Cloud-based secure printing solutions enforce secure protocols, minimizing the risks associated with legacy support.
  4. Isolation of Print Functions: Dedicated print servers separate print functions from multi-use servers, reducing vulnerabilities and potential misconfigurations.
  5. Enhanced Encryption: Cloud-based secure printing solutions encrypt all print file transmission and storage, protecting against eavesdropping and unauthorized access.

Pharos Cloud: A Secure Solution

Pharos Cloud offers a serverless printing infrastructure that ensures secure and direct-to-printer workflows for businesses. By replacing Windows-based print servers with Pharos Cloud’s cloud-based print management solution, organizations can eliminate print spooler services, printer drivers, and associated vulnerabilities.

The benefits of adopting Pharos Cloud include:

  1. Reduced Attack Surface: Centralized cloud print management minimizes security risks by eliminating the need for print spooler services on every Windows-based device, including domain controllers.
  2. Simplified Security Configuration: Security software no longer needs to include print services in allow lists and exceptions, closing potential security holes.
  3. Robust Encryption: Pharos Cloud employs strong encryption algorithms to protect print job communications and data at rest, ensuring maximum security.
  4. Compatibility and Ease of Use: Pharos Cloud seamlessly integrates with existing infrastructure and does not require workstation or printer fleet upgrades. It simplifies administration tasks and improves the overall printing experience.

By adopting Pharos Cloud’s cloud-based serverless secure printing service, organizations can mitigate the risks associated with the PrintNightmare vulnerability and future vulnerabilities yet to be discovered. This solution offers compatibility, enhanced security, and reduced administrative workload, ensuring a win-win situation for businesses while thwarting potential hackers.

Conclusion

Securing your print infrastructure is crucial in the face of vulnerabilities like PrintNightmare. Organizations must consider long-term solutions that address the weaknesses of Windows-based print servers. Migrating to a cloud-based print management solution, such as Pharos Cloud, offers enhanced security, reduced attack surfaces, simplified administration, and robust encryption. By proactively adopting these measures, businesses can wake up from the PrintNightmare without sacrificing their printing capabilities and ensure a more secure future.

Pharos Products and Log4j Exploit

December 15th Update: This blog post has been updated with new information as we learn more. For the latest information on Log4j impact on Pharos products and how we’re mitigating the risk of this exploit, please visit our Community Page

Background

Recently, a new zero-day vulnerability in the popular Java library Apache Log4j (CVE-2021-44228) was uncovered. This vulnerability allows attackers to inject arbitrary code in Log4j versions 2.0-2.14.1. This Java library is widely used by multiple closed and open source projects. 

This vulnerability is rated critical (CVSS severity level 10 out of 10), with immediate patching or mitigation recommended if affected, because it allows a possible Remote Code Execution when an attacker sends a malicious code string that gets logged by Log4j. That string allows the attacker to load Java onto a server and therefore take control. 

Impact of Apache Log4j Exploit on Pharos Products

After initial review, Pharos believes that Pharos customers are not impacted by the Log4j JNDI exploit.  

A non-customer facing cloud component used by Pharos was potentially susceptible to log4shell – specifically ElasticSearch, which is used by Pharos to log events across our infrastructure. We have applied patches to all production environments. In addition, Pharos has scanned all our logs and confirmed that no attempts were made to exploit this vulnerability.  

Pharos uses Java in our embedded solutions for some devices; however, the vulnerable library version is not used. 

For more detail and up-to-date information, please visit our technical page on this topic on our community site. If you have further questions, please reach out pharossecurityteam@pharos.com.