23 Aug 2019
Confidential documents article illustration

Confidential documents: how to print them safely and keep them out of the wrong hands

Australia has had enhanced privacy legislation and notifiable data breach requirements in place for more than a year. While this doesn’t yet affect many SMEs this doesn’t mean it won’t in the near future. Maintaining information security is essential not just to comply with legislation (although that’s an important consideration) but also to give customers and partners confidence that they can do business with you safely.

Letting documents fall into the wrong hands is unacceptable, yet it happens every day when businesses aren’t vigilant enough or when human error has a chance to creep in.

There are three key ways a printed document could inadvertently fall into the wrong hands:

  1. Uncollected printing. Printed documents aren’t collected right away and are left on the printer output tray. At this point, they can easily be scooped up with other print jobs by accident and they can be read by unauthorised people.
  2. Unsecured printers. Printouts are collected immediately but the printer itself isn’t secure. With printers connected to the internet, all it takes is for a hacker to access the printer’s hard drive to view all the confidential documents that have been printed.
  3. Inappropriate disposal. The printer is discarded without thoroughly clearing the hard drive. This makes it easy for the next owner of the printer to access the documents that have been printed.

When the wrong people get hold of your confidential information, your business suffers and your partners and customers are likely to suffer alongside you. The repercussions of data falling into the wrong hands can include:

  • financial losses as criminals use the sensitive information to defraud your company
  • competitive disadvantage if commercially-sensitive information is disclosed to competitors
  • reputational damage as customers elect to take their business elsewhere if their payment or other personal information is leaked
  • supplier relationship damage if sensitive information about your working relationship is made public, such as special discounts or pricing that isn’t widely available
  • and more.

Document security is, therefore, an important factor for every business to consider, regardless of the size of your company. Often, small businesses are attractive targets for criminals who presume that, the smaller the business, the less likely it is to have effective document security in place. However, properly securing your confidential information doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated, so there’s no reason that even the smallest company can’t have effective document security processes and tools.

There are three key ways you can keep your confidential documents secure:

1. Print authentication

Print authentication lets employees control when documents are printed and be at the printer ready to collect them before others have a chance to read these documents.

It uses a unique code or swipe card specifically allocated to an individual employee. This system initially holds the document until the employee uses their credentials to request it be printed at the printer. Once they swipe their card or enter their code, their print job is released.

This approach means fewer documents would be printed and left on the printer output tray, since the person doing the printing as to physically be at the printer before documents will print out. This also greatly reduces the amount of paper wastage that occurs when people have forgotten they’ve already printed a document out, so they print it again. Or, they aren’t aware that the document has printed at a different printer, so they assume it never printed out in the first place.

Print authentication therefore reduces cost as well as improving document security.

2. Secure data return

Printing devices can hold copies of documents printed, scanned, faxed, or copied on the machine. This means the documents can be accessed long after they were printed either by hackers that access the machine without authorisation, or by the machine’s next owners after your business has discarded it.

To ensure that your company’s information remains secure after the printer has reached its end of life, Konica Minolta offer two levels of security:

  1. OPS bizhub Secure: This includes: automated configuration of the machine, automated deletion of files, password protection, encrypted hard drive, and a notice on the front of the machine alerting staff to the security measures.
  2. OPS Secure Return: This includes: all the standard features of the bizhub Secure, and also a Konica Minolta service engineer who will come to your site and remove the hard drive, returning it to you for your own disposal and security procedures.

3. Employee education

When human error plays such a huge role in data breaches, it’s essential to educate employees so they know how to do their part to keep documents secure. Ingrained habits like shredding confidential documents when employees are finished with them, avoiding printing out documents where possible, and not keeping confidential documents in plain view on desks can all help keep information safe.

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