Comprehensive guide to end-to-end print security
Last modified on 12 August 2020 11:15 PM
It doesn’t take much to convince organizations nowadays on the importance of security and protecting sensitive information that is stored digitally, in mid-transit, or being printed from the printer. Just take a moment and think about all the security measures you’ve put in place in the last 10 years, and then compare that to how much you know about the security of your print jobs.
This article specifically focuses on securing print jobs in transit, and how they can be protected from snooping eyes. In other words, end-to-end encryption of print jobs on the network. For additional information about securing your print environment in general, refer to our security whitepaper.
Security is not a set and forget activity. To ensure protection for today and for the future, we’ll guide you through how to:
This article promised to be a “comprehensive guide” so let’s get into the detail and get your print jobs secure. Here is a quick summary of areas that we’ll be covering, so you can jump to a specific one if you wish to:
Client to print server
There is good news! Out of the box, Windows printing system uses Server Message Block (SMB) to print spool files to the server, which is the same protocol used for file sharing. SMB is encrypted, well that is since SMB2, which was made even more secure with the introduction of SMB3.
Recommended practice: consider switching off SMB1 on your server. BUT… if you have clients running Windows 98/ME, Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows 2003 on your network, then printing and copying files to this server will stop working. You may need to go through the necessary change management processes of your organization to get those users moved over to newer machines and/or operating systems. Don’t worry, they will love you for it - who doesn’t like a new laptop anyway? That is rhetorical, you don’t have to comment their name if you know someone.
Once you think no one is using SMB1, you can be sure about this by double checking and running the following command on your server:
Finally, let’s pull the trigger and switch off SMB1 with this command:
More information about SMB security on Windows is covered in this article.
MacOS computers print to Windows print servers on one of the following protocols:
You have two options to deploy IPPS:
Note however, that both iOS and MacOS devices accept self-signed certificates. On the open internet, where there are many hops between you and the server, a self-signed certificate is not secure because any of these hops can introduce a man-in-the-middle attack. On a local network however, the risk is considerably less, especially in a switched network environment.
Best practice: If you want to minimize the risk of man-in-the-middle attacks , make sure you use secure wifi protocols, and consider using security tools that actively monitor for address spoofing attempts.
PaperCut’s Android Mobility Print app uses encrypted printing for Android devices out of the box. Print jobs are sent to the Mobility Print server over HTTPS. Similar to iOS and MacOS, self-signed certificates are accepted.
ChromeOS currently prints over IPP (not IPPS) to Mobility Print. User identity information such as passwords and usernames are encrypted, but not the spool file. If fully encrypted printing from ChromeOS is required, consider setting up PaperCut Web Print (over HTTPS) or use Google Cloud Print integration with PaperCut MF and NG.
Print server to printers
Firstly, you need to check whether your printer supports IPPS. Check your printer specification.
If your printers support IPPS, you are in luck, as you can set up an encrypted connection between your print server and the printer. If your printers only support LPD, then there are still a few things you can do to avoid someone snooping and capturing the print jobs, which will be explained below.
Firstly, configure your printers on a different VLAN. Secondly, to ensure someone can’t access the private VLAN by pulling out a network cable from a printer, follow the user manual of your switch to configure port security to only accept your printer’s MAC address.
Checking whether encryption to a website is configured, is pretty easy. Simply open a browser and see whether it complains about the security.
Checking the encryption of print jobs is slightly more involved, and a little bit more fun. You’ll need Wireshark to analyse network protocols and for instructions on how to use Wireshark to validate that your jobs are secure, follow this guide.
As mentioned earlier, an important part of security is maintenance. All too often, vulnerabilities occur through lack of maintenance. This is often a forgotten step so here are our top tips on making your print environment more secure:
Well done! You have not only secured your organisation for the present, but you’ve put in place practices that will keep your organisation secure far into the future. Through all of this, you might have picked up a salary raise. You can now feel good going on a weekend away, knowing that you’ve got your organisation’s back. Proceed to work towards an Apply, Validate and Maintain approach for the other areas of your IT infrastructure!