HP aims to boost printing security

HP introduces new technologies it says will help introduce the kind of security businesses are used to in the PC environment into the print world.

Edmund Wingate, vice president of solutions for laser and enterprise solutions at HP

Edmund Wingate, vice president of solutions for laser and enterprise solutions at HP

NEW YORK CITY – In the past, HP printers had slogans like “Prints, Scans, Faxes,” or “Prints, Scans, Copies.” Now, the company is looking to change that to “Prints, Scans, Protects,” outlining new tools and technologies to help make sure companies’ printing environments are as secure as the rest of their infrastructure hopefully is.

“It’s about time we deploy the same rigors and standards around security in the printer space that we’ve used in the PC and server spaces in the past,” said Edmund Wingate, vice president of solutions for laser and enterprise solutions at HP, in a press conference here.

To be fair, a lot of the settings, abilities and tools that companies need to ensure the security of their print environments have been in place for some time. Wingate just said they’ve been too hard to use. And perhaps, they’ve been a little underexplained. So while the press event here may not have been the launch of many of HP’s print security capabilities, it certainly was a coming out party of sorts, a strong signal that the company intends to make print security a higher-profile issue – and one where it sees itself having a competitive advantage.

The company introduced JetAdvantage, its new brand for business workflow and printing solutions that work on its products, which will serve as both a brand for HP-built applications and technologies, and a “works with” mark for third-party applications and technologies that have been certified to work with HP LaserJet printers in the company’s labs.

And under that brand, the company introduced a cloud-based Pull Print system that will work with any of the company’s printers with its common FutureSmart firmware. The Pull Print functionality introduces to small businesses a free version of the common enterprise pull print technology, whereby a user is required to authenticate at the printing device in order to release an ordered print job. It’s one of the dominant ways of preventing one of the oldest types of security leaks connected to printing – the one where an employee prints something with sensitive information, then fails to pick it up from the printer tray in a timely fashion, meaning it can be seen, or accidentally (or maliciously) picked up by another employee.

“We’ve recognized for a long time that SMBs would benefit from pull print capabilities, but it’s been challenging from a technology standpoint to do so in a secure way,” Wingate said.

By making it a free applet that works with HP’s secure cloud, the company hopes to make it a common feature even well into SMB. The technology sends print jobs to HP’s cloud, and stores it there for up to three days awaiting the user printing it.

The company also introduced a series of technologies to help make sure that print is on an equal footing with PCs and servers when it comes to security policy, management, monitoring and reporting. It introduced version 2.1 of its Imaging and Printing Security Center software, which manages and automates company-wide security policies across a customer’s HP print fleet. The new version adds support for automatically managing and provisioning security certifications throughout the business. While the tool has been available for a while – as witnessed by the 2.1 versioning – the new focus on print security means HP sees it taking on a higher profile.

“This is the same easy and consistent control they’re used to with the PC environment,” Wingate said. “It means there are no more excuses for not having a solid print security policy.”

The products is sold through the channel, and while it’s an on-premises tool today which may be less than optimal for some managed print service providers, Wingate suggested it’s still a valuable tool for MPSPs, because it allows them to add a print-centric managed security policy to their value proposition.

“It lets them go to their customers and say ‘I am managing your print and MFP infrastructure, making sure it stays up and running. Would you like me to make sure it’s secured?’” he said.

The company is rolling out training for its managed print partners to do just that, and Wingate said it will focus on building out security awareness, and built-in security within its managed print channel in the near future.

The company also announced printed (and scanned) content security in the form of HP Secure Content Management and Monitoring, which uses technology from its Autonomy acquisition to keep an eye on documents that flow through the enterprise and ensure that sensitive information is not printed, e-mailed or otherwise shard in an insecure fashion.

“The power of it is that we’re no longer limited to just securing the device or the data, now we’re securing the content as well,” Wingate said.

And for its more security-focused partners, HP introduced integration for its printers with FutureSmart into its ArcSight SIEM tool, meaning that print-related security events and other challenges will show inline with other IT security issues in the central console, again giving partners a way to extend their opportunities – in this case from IT security management into print security management.

Today, many of HP’s security tools and offerings work only with the company’s own devices, limiting the appeal for enterprises with multi-vendor print environments and for managed print partners with multi-vendor clients or even the need to use third-party tools for remote management and monitoring. Wingate acknowledged the single vendor support is “a genuine challenge,” albeit one that’s necessary because it’s all but impossible for HP-designed tools to query the security policies of other vendors’ printers with the same level of insight it has about its own products. But he said that it’s “a reasonable ambition” for the company extend its security management tools to a more hardware-agnostic viewpoint over time.

“For now, it’s an HP solution, but it should become more of a platform than an HP solution over time,” Wingate said.

And it wouldn’t be unprecedented for multiple printer vendors to come together to develop standards to solve a mutual challenge. One need look no further than the quick advance of the still relatively new Mopria Alliance in developing standards for mobile printing across multi-vendor environments for an example of what print vendors could do to create a common language and common tools to address industry-wide print security controls.