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Print from anywhere – but be POPIA compliant

By Alison Job for Canon

Sebastian McNamee, Product Manager – Workspace, Canon SA.
Sebastian McNamee, Product Manager – Workspace, Canon SA.

When it comes to compliance with data privacy laws such as the Protection of Personal Information Act, businesses often don’t consider their printing workflows as the source of a potential breach.

Sebastian McNamee, Product Manager for Workspace at Canon SA, says a more mobile workforce that can work from anywhere means that they also need to be able to print from anywhere. “Previously, people generally printed from their PCs or laptops, but technology has evolved, allowing anyone to now print from almost any device, including mobile phones and tablets.”

The benefits of being able to print from mobile devices are manifold. Firstly, the user can print from anywhere, they don’t need to be at their desk. Secondly, productivity is increased as the user doesn’t have to return to their desk and log onto their computer to print. “If urgent documents need to be printed while you aren’t at your desk, you can still send a document to your office printer.”

Another benefit is improved customer service, as being able to print from a mobile device saves time, allowing you to spend more time with the customer and reducing any frustrations around processes taking excessive time to complete.

From a technology perspective, three critical components are required to enable printing from mobile devices.

The first is a device that can print documents, such as an iPhone, an Android device or a tablet. “Most mobile devices can send print jobs to a printer using an app such as Google’s Cloud Print or AirPrint from Apple. Most print companies have their own applications that allow mobile devices to print to their printers.”

The mobile device requires a connection to the printer, which is normally done via WiFi but can also be done using Bluetooth. Most businesses have wireless networks set up so it makes sense to use them to print.

You need a physical office printer that has a LAN or WiFi connection to the network.

McNamee goes on to provide an overview of the process involved in printing using an app on a mobile device. “First you need to download and install your printing app of choice – naturally we recommend the Canon mobile printing app. Then connect your device to the company network and choose the document that you want to print. Selecting ‘print’ will bring up a preview page, where you can adjust your print settings.

“On the print preview section, you’ll find a list of networked printers that are available to print from. Select the printer you require and print. You can also, as an alternative, open the print app and browse for the document you wish to print.”

He advises that for business purposes, users download the app supplied by the printer’s manufacturer instead of using any of the other apps in the app store.

“Print security is a complex and easily overlooked necessity,” he says, “particularly when printing from a mobile device. There are three areas in the printing life cycle that need to be addressed from a security point of view.”

Before printing, the business needs to manage who has access to print and what they’re permitted to print. Allowing everybody to print whatever they like is not a good security practice. During printing, the business needs to ensure that print workflows are secure and the jobs are encrypted as they travel between the device and the printer. Lastly, the business needs to consider what happens to the document once it has printed.

“If the firmware on its devices is not continuously updated or login credentials are weak, the business can become vulnerable to an attack. The business is also at risk if it doesn’t have a complete print management system in place. If documents are printed and automatically released at the printer, there’s a risk that any person can pick up the documents and potentially view confidential information.”

With the advent of POPIA, the need for proper print security is no longer a “nice to have” but has evolved into a “must have”. The risk of an information breach is high and the repercussions could be detrimental to the business from both a financial and reputational perspective.

Print security must be taken seriously and needs to be a priority for all companies and the easiest way to do this is to make sure all access credentials are strong and changed regularly. A print management solution will enable you to secure prints from start to end; this includes giving access to authorised people to retrieve their print jobs by releasing them only when they are at the device, and once the job has been printed, it can be deleted automatically.

This type of system allows for detailed reporting, which will allow management to monitor everything from what is printed, who is printing and the overall costs of printing.

When it comes to printing from any device, potential security breaches are a real concern. “We must remember that a printer is no longer just a printer; today’s multifunctional devices have hard drives and there’s the possibility of malware or a virus gaining access to the printer by attaching itself to a print job that was sent from a mobile device.”

“Because multifunction printers are connected to the company network, this also presents an opportunity for malware or a virus to infiltrate the business. This can be overcome by having strict security and printing policies in place. The data on the printers need to be deleted often and users must connect via a secure VPN that provides a secure means to transmit files.

McNamee advises businesses to do detailed research on print security. “Many companies we speak with are concerned at the cost of implementing a print management solution and often tend to leave their printers open to breach. With POPIA in place and the risk of outside attacks into the business via the printer, all companies should weigh up the cost of deploying a print management solution compared to the financial and reputational implications of a confidential data breach.” 

* Article first published on

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