The upturn in hybrid work models are demonstrating to IT departments on a global scale that a zero-trust printing approach is the way forward. It has shown us both the promises and the pitfalls of our digitally enhanced world with all the connectivity it pledges.
In modern work environments, data is no longer primarily stored on a physical hard drive and is instead stored in the cloud. It’s a transition that started a while back, but is more important than ever, as the upturn in WFH (working from home) continues.
In a cloud work setup, information is stored in data centres or spread across multiple cloud vendors. Employees can access the data through a myriad of endpoints from various Wi-Fi connections. This has increased organisations’ attack surface and created an urgent need for IT leaders to rethink the traditional perimeter-based approach to network security.
Rooted in the principle of ‘never trust, always verify’, the zero-trust model has fast gained popularity and emerged as a best practice, de facto approach, and policy of choice for organisations of all sizes and IT leaders who are leveraging it to regain control in today’s ever-changing threat landscape.
Zero trust printing is the sum of thorough user verifications, least privileged access, and breach assumption. The approach is inherently more sceptical than traditional perimeter network approaches. The first instinct in a zero-trust environment is to withhold access and expect re-authentication.
Coming up, let’s investigate how the zero-trust approach translates to your print environment and what zero trust architecture benefits you can leverage.
What is Zero-Trust Printing?
Rather than cordially awarding printer users with sweeping access to major portions of an internal network, the key tenet of a zero-trust printing environment is to restrict access and grant it on an as-needed basis.
Zero-trust flips the traditional network perimeter-centric view on cybersecurity on its head. Least privilege is one of the core tenets of this security model and user access is authorised continually to ensure authenticity. Zero-trust is not a single catch-all technology—instead, it’s a fresh approach to network security based on three fundamental principles of:
- Verify explicitly (always perform authorisation and authentication through every possible data point)
- Use least privileged access (don’t give users more access than they need to perform their tasks)
- Assume breach (don’t expect your safety measures to be sufficient—have measures in place that can work as a catch-all in case safety measures fail)
Zero-trust takes away the focus on the network itself and re-focus it on controlling access for individuals looking to access any internal systems.
In an attempt to reach optimal safety, many companies use what is known as an ‘access management service’ to control their access points. Some of the most famous examples of these access management services include Microsoft Azure Ad, LastPass Enterprise, and Ping Identity SSO.
One of the significant gaps that a traditional zero trust approach leaves is how it relates to print services—and we’ve seen how disastrous it can be when print entries are not protected. This article will go over how a traditional zero trust approach often leave print infrastructure aside, creating a vulnerability in the corporate network, and how zero-trust compliant cloud printing can help.
The Weak Link in Zero-Trust Environments
Businesses can get so caught up in maintaining the zero trust networks that they forget about one of the IT activities most susceptible to threats, printing. To minimise the attack surface of your networks and IT systems, your print environment needs to be integrated into your zero-trust model.
Printers and multifunctional devices (MFPs) can quickly become a weak link in IT security. Smart-connected MFPs are critical endpoints and just as susceptible to malicious external cyberattacks as PCs—especially if print systems are still running on a traditional network.
In a traditional setting, a hacker may be able to access a printer queue and intercept documents. They may also be able to use their printer as an attack point—their “way in” to attacking other systems within your company.
This doesn’t even consider how the release of traditional print jobs can’t be easily controlled, making it possible for a document to physically fall into the wrong hands (a scenario that can be avoided with a cloud print feature called secure pull printing).
As a result, an emphasis on print security must be maintained. IT leaders need to leverage the cloud to provide complete visibility of the print fleet and securely and centrally manage anything print-related from a single pane of glass.
Data sent to a print device is stored on a hard drive and, if left unsecured, remains vulnerable to attacks even after being printed. This vulnerability prove print should be viewed as a critical component of an effective network security strategy. In other words, don’t neglect print when it comes to zero-trust.
Make Printing Part of a Zero-Trust Architecture
As you continue your journey to the cloud and pivot to support new hybrid work scenarios, you need strategies and modernising legacy security as top priorities, to move towards a zero-trust printing ecosystem. This will not only strengthen your security posture but also work to minimise your possible attack surface.
Security teams like yours need to look for ways to align print management and infrastructure with broader IT policies such as authentication, authorisation, and role-based access control (RBAC). The best way to strengthen the security around your printing infrastructure is to rely on cloud print solutions that can use sophisticated identity verification systems like Ping ID.
With Hybrid Cloud Platform (HCP), RBAC is tied to the customer’s ID provider and gives granular access within a customer environment to services and data.
When you use cloud print, you no longer need to rely on clunky, high-maintenance printer drivers. Devices are also uniquely identifiable, which means that employees (and guests) can print from anywhere within your enterprise networks from their computers and mobile devices.
Trust is established with certificates and Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) for applications running on PC clients, embedded, etc., and internal device tokens can be used to authenticate the device itself.
Our cloud platform uses standards-based technologies such as TLS, OAuth, and SAML for devices and services. Traffic is encrypted by TLS 1.3 by default, whether on an external or internal network. HCP connections are outbound from the customer network, unsolicited links are discarded, and there are controls to shut down connections to prevent denial of service (DOS) attacks.
Cloud Print Allows for Monitoring Real-Time Updates
Relying on a cloud service makes it easier to perform network configuration on an ongoing basis. This means that you can easily update your internal network when permissions within an organisation change.
Having navigated the perfect storm of providing access to printers while striving to maintain information security and cost control, your focus should now be on building a cloud-native zero trust infrastructure. One that is agile to support changing business needs in a post-pandemic world.
First, you need to consider the major fundamentals of a cloud-native setup, i.e., everything from governance to business continuity and security compliance. Here’s the full list of considerations to make when moving to cloud:
Zero-Trust Architecture Benefits
Implementing a zero-trust printing architecture will bring a number of major benefits for businesses of all sizes and types, including:
- Decreased threat surface on your print environment
- Full visibility into all network user activity
- Simplifies IT management of printing
- Maximised authority of authentication
- The ability to streamline and dynamically grant access
- Limit the risks of information exfiltration
- Higher protection against printer vulnerabilities
- Less reliance on threat activity detection and prevention
- Enhanced security posture on-premises and in the cloud
- Helps IT departments secure in-house and remote workforce
FAQs on Zero-Trust Printing
How is Zero-Trust Printing Possible?
There is a lot of work going on in the background to ensure printing is fully implemented in a zero-trust environment. With born-in-the-cloud print infrastructure platforms, persistent security and exhaustive maintenance systems are required. Through zero-trust data protection (at rest, in transit and in use) and least privileged access, zero-trust printing becomes possible.
If you’re building a roadmap for implementing zero-trust for your IT systems, consider adding EveryonePrint’s born-in-the-cloud multi-tenant print infrastructure platform into the mix to leverage the many upsides there are in a safer print environment.
With more and more businesses switching to cloud services, turning your print over to the cloud is a great way to prepare for the future while keeping your data safe.
Dive deeper into printing security and compliance by watching our webinar on how cloud printing provides unparalleled opportunities to mitigate risk.