Comprehensive guide to end-to-end print security

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It doesnít 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 youíve 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, weíll guide you through how to:

  • Apply,
  • Validate, and
  • Maintain encryption of print jobs on your network.

Apply

This article promised to be a ďcomprehensive guideĒ so letís get into the detail and get your print jobs secure. Here is a quick summary of areas that weíll be covering, so you can jump to a specific one if you wish to:

Client to print server

Print server to printers

Client to print server

Windows clients

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. BUTÖ 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. Donít worry, they will love you for it - who doesnít like a new laptop anyway? That is rhetorical, you donít 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:
Get-SmbSession | Select Dialect,ClientComputerName,ClientUserName | Where-Object {$_.Dialect Ėlt 2.00}

Finally, letís pull the trigger and switch off SMB1 with this command:
Set-SmbServerConfiguration ĖEnableSMB1Protocol $false

More information about SMB security on Windows is covered in this article.

MacOS clients

MacOS computers print to Windows print servers on one of the following protocols:

  • LPR/LPD
  • SMB
  • IPPS (recommended)

LPR/LPD
LPR/LPD is not encrypted, and if youíve made it this far through this article, it would appear that security is important to you so letís just skip this one and not use it.

SMB
In all honesty, managing SMB printers on a Mac, whether it is BYOD or a managed device is often not worth it. I recommend you go straight for IPPS. But, if you do go for SMB, at least your print jobs will be encrypted over the network.

IPPS
IPPS is IPP over an HTTPS connection. Inherently it uses the same level of encryption you would get on an HTTPS web page. MacOS computers do accept self-signed certificates, read more about considerations under iOS clients.

You have two options to deploy IPPS:

  1. Deploy Mobility Print. Mobility Print works extremely well in a mixed environment where some devices are managed, and others are BYOD or even mobile devices. Both are able to connect to the Mobility Print server and authenticate securely.

    Mobility Print can be deployed on a Windows server, so an additional MacOS server is not required. Mobility Print will use HTTPS for client connections.
  2. Deploy a MacOS server. With a MacOS server, you can deploy additional tools such as Kerberos if you want your users to avoid entering their credentials when printing. The additional overhead and cost required to configure and manage the additional server and clients often prompts organizations to use Mobility Print instead.

iOS clients

Mobility Print is the answer to encryption for both iOS and MacOS, as IPPS is used as the printing protocol.

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.

Android clients

PaperCutís 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 clients

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.

IPPS between the server and printers PaperCut MF and NG can securely forward print jobs to printers over IPPS. Follow this guide on how to configure IPPS printers and PaperCut MF and NG.

How to secure printers that do not support IPPS As print jobs wonít be encrypted, your only defence is to separate network traffic between your server and printers from the rest of the network.

Firstly, configure your printers on a different VLAN. Secondly, to ensure someone canít 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 printerís MAC address.

Validate

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. Youíll need Wireshark to analyse network protocols and for instructions on how to use Wireshark to validate that your jobs are secure, follow this guide.

Maintain

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:

  1. Document your security policies and design. If you leave one day, someone should be able to pick up from where you left off.
  2. Keep your printers on a different VLAN or dedicated IP range, and disable all protocols except IPPS.
  3. Switch on auto updates to get the latest security updates for software and operating systems.
  4. Sign up for security notifications from Microsoft.
  5. Create Google Alerts for:
    • MacOS security alert
    • iOS security alert
    • ChromeOS security alert
    • Android security alert
    • IPPS security alert
  6. Share your practices and document within your organization. Donít be surprised when your next pay review includes a nice raise.

Conclusion

Well done! You have not only secured your organisation for the present, but youíve 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 youíve got your organisationís back. Proceed to work towards an Apply, Validate and Maintain approach for the other areas of your IT infrastructure!


Keywords: security, encryption, end-to-end encryption

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Article last modified on January 16, 2019, at 02:51 AM
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