Stopping 3 Common Data Security Risks with Secure Mobile Printing

Posted on November 20, 2014

Each year since 2010, the annual InfoTrends survey of knowledge workers in Europe and the U.S. has reported that workers spend up to half their working hours away from hard-wired network access. This means that they're relying on wireless access via WiFi, VLAN, or cellular connections to access, share, and print the information they need.

So it's no wonder that Forrester Research says that this mobile, flexible workforce brings increased productivity and customer service benefits as well as risks. More than 40% of surveyed IT executives are very concerned about the security risks posed by mobile devices, according to Forrester.

"You might think that the increased reliance on mobile devices would reduce the need for printing, but that isn't the case," says Prat Agarwal, director of business development at secure mobile printing leader Breezy. Unfortunately, the InfoTrends survey says that only 21% of respondents say that can print directly from their mobile devices via a secure connection to the company's printer fleet.

That means that up to 79% of workers are using some other work-around such as email, transferring documents to a cloud storage system or PC, or using a wireless connection to an unsecured printer when they want to print a document. "Enterprise IT has to change the wan they look at risk, and the strategy they use to protect data," Agarwal says. "And part of that expansion has to address printing from mobile devices, both in�side and out of the traditional office. Implement�ing an effective strategy to make printing secure and simple for employees, regardless of where those employees happen to be, is a critical step in reducing security risks."

A September, 2014 study from the Ponemon Institute says that 43% of US companies had a data breach last year, even if they are not aware of it, and 78% either do not have a data breach response plan in place or have not updated it in a timely manner. "If you look at companies that have an overall data security plan, but haven't addressed the risks involved in mobile printing, I think the numbers of unprepared companies would be higher," Agarwal adds.

How Risky is Mobile Printing?

The risks of mobile device printing vary, depending on the location of the employee, and what method is being used to connect the mobile device to a printer. Forrester points out that one of the biggest risks to company data security are the "mobile wannabes" " employees whose job responsibilities do not require mobility, but who want to use their personal mobile devices for work-related activities.

Even companies who took pains to ensure that certain kinds of employees such as those in the executive suite, sales, and other "mobile knowledge workers" were covered by a comprehensive enterprise mobility management (EMM) suite often failed to consider the "mobile wannabes", the analyst company reports.

"A company may find out the hard way that one of their employees who wasn't considered a "mobile worker" has downloaded one of the consumer applications which enable mobile printing without any of the security controls needed to protect company data, and become the victim of a man-in-the-middle attack that results in a data breach," Agarwal explains.

A secure, enterprise-class mobile printing solution like Breezy that works across devices is the best way to avoid the problem, he adds. "Employees just want to get their job done, whenever and wherever they are. If you don't make it easy for them to use a secure mobile printing application, they'll go to iTunes or Google Play and download something that lets them print from their mobile device, whether that solution offers any kind of security or protection or not."

Where Mobile Printing Risks Occur

Mobile printing can put data at risk in three places where mobile knowledge workers and mobile wannabees spend a considerable amount of time, including:

How does connecting to your office printer fleet, or a company network, from a smartphone or tablet put data at risk" Because not everyone who brings a mobile device into your office is a daily part of your workforce. Consider employees who work in branch offices, or primarily work in the field and occasionally work onsite without a fixed workspace. They need printer access, as do consultants, contractors and partners who are attending meetings or training session.

What kind of security risks do these visiting workers pose" If they have trouble accessing a secure printer, they may seek help from a helpful assistant in the office who might or might not recognize sensitive information. Consider the case of a senior VP at a large bank who was visiting another office for a quarterly meeting of the board of directors.

She had a temporary office, but ran into problems printing materials for the shareholder meeting " so she asked someone sitting nearby for help. It turned out that the helpful employee was actually a contractor, who shared the information in the document he printed for the meeting on Twitter, resulting in regulatory fines and embarrassment for the bank that had private data published widely.

There's also the problem that a visitor's smartphone or tablet may be infected with malware that invites or encourages third-party intrusions once they're connected to your network. Last, but not least, if the smartphone or tablet is stolen once the visitor leaves, it could contain information that gives the thief access to your network.

There are similar risks with business travelers, who have to rely on business centers, customer networks, or public printing networks to take care of last-minute changes to presentations or documents. An outsider may see the documents, the third-party printer or network may come under attack, or the device containing the information can be lost or stolen.

At Home: Your "Castle" May Not be Secure

Are there any professions where people don't take work home at least occasionally " if not daily" According to Live Science, nearly half of American workers say they take work home at least twice a week, and nearly a third do it more often than that. Taking work home brings with it a different set of secure mobile printing risks, but they can be problematic.

Even with a protected wireless network, an employee can put important company information at risk. One of the most common risky behaviors is when employees email work documents to themselves, using a personal email address from a local ISP or "freemail" network such as Gmail. "Even if your employees use a password-protected wireless connection to send material to their laptop or printer, it's unlikely that the connection will be secure enough to meet your standards for high-risk data," Agarwal says.

"And don't forget that unencrypted copies of the document now exist outside your security perimeter -- on the mobile device, laptop or PC, and on the mail server used to transfer them, and there may also be a copy in the printer buffer of a printer connected to the "Internet of Things" with no barrier to protect them."

A Better Option

There is, of course, a better option for all of the common scenarios where company data is put at risk by employees who are just trying to get the job done. That option is a comprehensive EMM strategy that includes Breezy's secure mobile printing solution. "Since on-device encryption is at the heart of Breezy's solution, even if the mobile device is lost or stolen, or a printer or email server is hacked, all the thief would get is an encrypted file that's much, much less valuable than the usual unencrypted files," Agarwal says.

Leading enterprise mobility management (EMM) tools like AirWatch, AppSense MobileNow, Aruba, Citrix, Good Technology, IBM (MaaS360, formerly owned by Fiberlink), MobileIron and Mocana are fully integrated with Breezy's secure mobile printing technology, and it's fast and easy to add Breezy to your EMM solution. For more information on secure mobile printing, watch this video from Breezy, download The Definitive Guide to Mobile Printing, a free ebook, or click here to schedule a demo now.

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