Choose your language

Choose your login



The dangers of poor document security policy

A poor document management workflow isn’t just annoying, it’s a big security risk. Your document security policy is how you track, manage, and protect sensitive printed material. In some industries this won’t matter too much – children’s party catering businesses aren’t bound by many document compliance requirements for example – but if you work in medicine, finance or law, document management is a serious responsibility. Not to mention a potentially serious cost – the average price of a data breach these days is US$4.45 million. That’s a lot of party sprinkles.

Real-world consequences of poor document security

Document security breaches aren’t confined to hackers sneaking into your print server. They may not even be strictly digital – this is what makes document management such a unique security risk. Sometimes breaches occur through simple human error.

Such was the case for the Australian Government amid the revelation that hundreds of classified documents had fallen into a civilian’s hands through the purchase of two filing cabinets. This was the so-called “Cabinet Files” incident.

Document security isn’t just about guarding against hackers; your print security policy must factor in at least four potential security breach areas.

A handy way of looking at document security is to think of onions. Specifically, an onion’s layer. Each of the following factors represents an added layer of security.

You need to think about:

  1. Protecting your devices that are access points to your system from hackers
  2. Controlling each document at the point of printing and only giving print release access to those you authenticate
  3. Stopping sensitive documents from being printed at all using print policies
  4. Adding traceability to the printed page with watermarking and digital signatures

Let’s take a closer look at those factors.

Document security solutions that protect your devices

This is the most obvious layer of document security, and the most implemented. We’re talking about security measures that thwart malicious external attacks. Things like firewalls, antivirus software, SSL, encrypted admin connections and so on. You’ll be happy to know, print security is baked into the ground floor of all PaperCut products.

Document security solutions that control the point of printing

Having sensitive documents sitting idle in a print tray is a ticking time bomb. In print management terms, documents should only be released to those with authentication. This is where PaperCut steps in, to ensure that only the owner of the document is the one who picks it up at the printer.

Your print server setup must be able to authenticate your users every time they print, no matter what device they use – even in BYOD situations. This allows you to identify when, who by, where and what’s been printed. Reporting and the ability to archive print jobs is essential for security here.

Document security solutions that make use of print policies

Print policies are print-management-speak for “Don’t let people print whatever the heck they want”. To prevent document security breaches, it’s best to have certain levels of print access.

Again, this is where your print management solution is required. Without it, you can’t control what your users are printing. For example, imagine being able to stop your payroll team from printing payslips without being physically present to pick up those sensitive documents. Or you want to block print jobs from an application which contains sensitive information, such as a banking application.

And speaking of sensitive documents, you should think about …

Adding traceability with watermarking

Without watermarking or a digital signature, a printed page is anonymous. No-one can tell where it came from, who owns it, or who printed it. Traceability is arguably the most important innovation in print security for documents that have already been printed. Being able to watermark or digitally sign a document ensures the user is identifiable.

It certainly aids in changing the behaviour of absent-minded employees, and it may help a rogue employee reconsider sharing a sensitive document as they can see the document can be traced back to them.

Lost or stolen documents

This is the obvious risk when it comes to document security policy. Without good print management software, the chances of a crucial document going missing (or worse: falling into the wrong hands) rise exponentially. Lost documents can usually be attributed to human error – maybe a document sits in an ‘Out’ tray too long and gets binned, or mis-filed, or grabbed by the wrong user and forgotten – but there’s always the chance of more sinister motives.

Losing documents isn’t just costly, it slows an organization down. Lost documents cause delays, confusion, double-ups and inefficiencies. They can also expose team members to legal and financial liabilities. The easiest way to solve lost documents? Controlled, trackable print release .

The impact of remote work on document security

The rise of hybrid and remote work has added another layer to document security. Namely, collaboration and communication. With half your staff working and printing from home these days, documents can easily get scattered across different departments, platforms, devices, and locations. Again, this sort of thing leads to unnecessary duplication – the same work getting done twice – and potentially important deadlines getting missed.

When it comes to remote work, you need to make sure all staff know where shared documents are held, as well as the proper policies for printing, taxonomy, and storage. This is the best way to eliminate knowledge loss and wasted time.

Assessing your current document security policy

There are a bunch of factors you should look at when auditing your company’s document security policies.

Classification. It’s best practice to identify types of documents based on their sensitivity and confidentiality levels. With print management software, like PaperCut, you can make sure that only authorized, senior users can print the most sensitive of documents.

Access control. The bread and butter of print management software. You need to be able to control who has access to your documents and MFDs. If you haven’t done so already, it’s time to implement user authentication.

Print management. All print jobs should be visible (ideally by managers and sysadmins), secure and, more importantly, logged. It’s simply not acceptable for an employee to be able to print documents without a trace.

Printer security. Make sure you keep your printer firmware patched and updated to protect against new security vulnerabilities. This one gets overlooked all the time! Again, with PaperCut, you can update drivers and patches centrally, and these changes will automatically flow through to all authenticated devices connected on the network.

Physical security. Physical documents require physical security. For organizations dealing with a lot of sensitive information, printers and scanners should ideally be placed in a locked room with key card access. You’ll also need encryption at either end of the printing job, meaning secure print release .

Document security best practice

Document security best practice isn’t a static thing. It changes all the time. What was cutting edge last year may no longer be relevant today. That’s why it’s always a good idea to schedule a yearly security audit with your IT team or sysadmins. This is a great time to check your systems, do some research, identify any potential gaps, and plug them swiftly.

Don’t be afraid to bring in external help, either. Especially if your team lacks the necessary skills for a proper document security audit. Our friendly team can point you in the right direction when it comes to document security and make recommendations to improve your document workflow.


Subscribe for the latest in print management and product updates!

By filling out and submitting this form, you agree that you have read our Privacy Policy, and agree to PaperCut handling your data in accordance with its terms.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.