Securing Your Mobile Workforce

June 11, 2021

Recently I had the pleasure of participating in a virtual event ‘Securing your Mobile Workforce’ with Gap Intelligence, a business intelligence services company, where we discussed the continuing security pressures facing businesses in 2021, and the different steps that can be taken to help protect a hybrid workforce. As shown by the recent Colonial Pipeline hack, no industry is outside of the danger zone and the impact can be wide-reaching, so here’s my rundown of the key challenges to be aware of, and some of the solutions we shared.

A COVID-19 shift in workplace dynamics

The team at Gap Intelligence identified that alongside the majority of the workforce operating from their homes from the last year, online purchases for notebooks, affordable inkjet printers, and document management, cloud and security solutions rose dramatically – peaking in August 2020 and continuing to maintain an increased level throughout 2021. The impact this had on the market was that more data is being stored on home office devices, there is increased data exchange across unsecured networks and expanded cybersecurity vulnerabilities.

Anticipated future state of working

With decentralized working looking like it will be the main business model of preference at least for the rest of 2021, these impacts are producing their own requirements to effectively support employees while keeping business data safe across environments. For example:

  • How to enable users to securely access and share data from both remote and in-office locations
  • How to allow users to print from mobile devices
  • How to provide user access control with multi-factor authentication
  • How to provide adequate network protection and configure secure Wi-Fi settings
  • How to consistently monitor for suspicious activity across networks and devices

All these risks and requirements, plus the associated costs in rectifying them, have lowered the confidence in the print security infrastructure. Quocirca’s January 2021 research found that only 21% of IT Decision Makers say they are completely confident in the security of their company’s print infrastructure, a decrease of 12% pre-COVID-19. They also found that 64% of businesses have reported data loss in the past six months due to the unsecure printing practice, with reasons including improper disposal of confidential information and device malware.

All this can be recovered by comprehensive actions inclusive of policies, processes, technologies and analyses to protect this new print environment. Essentially, you need to be securing your business and how you manage documents and networks ASAP. There are three key phases to consider in the approach for managing documents: measure, reduce and secure.

Step 1: Measure remote work

While we are still living this ongoing experiment into remote work, take the opportunity to study employee behavior in order to understand their needs and deliver appropriate, cost-effective support. You can’t manage what you don’t understand. Through measurement, you can deliver cost-effective solutions to home-based employees that address their needs and keep them productive. This may be needed for quite some time; and for some, permanently! And for compliance and data security, maintain logs of records and management activities across both clients and employees.

Step 2: Reduce Infrastructure requirements

To reduce the burden on on-premise needs, the move to the cloud is in full swing. To accommodate an increasingly decentralized workforce – both on and off the network – there’s a tremendous opportunity to eliminate the unnecessary infrastructure associated with print at this time, and make sure the devices you have are secure and protected.

You should also consider the extra devices connecting to your network, and whether they are needed. IoT devices and phone/tablet apps often have no added security, meaning many of these are potential entry points for actors with less than good intentions. For example, electronic door locks, fitness trackers on employee’s wrists, cheap security cameras and more can all be hung on and/or possibly provide access to a company’s network. Devices are not always properly secured because people don’t tend to think about it.

Step 3: Secure your infrastructure

Cybercrime has soared since the start of the pandemic by 600%. It has never been more important to secure your organization’s sensitive information, and printing is an extraordinary threat vector (both the devices and the process) that needs to be addressed. The multifunction printer (MFP) is an endpoint on the network and users are beginning to realize that they could be subject to attack. One of the biggest learnings we have been trying to communicate to our customers is that just because an MFP may not have been successfully hacked, it doesn’t mean it can’t happen – that’s why it’s important to have the security protocols in place.

Implement secure ‘pull printing’ to ensure there is no unauthorized access to devices, no need to have specific drivers or third-party applications installed, and most importantly increase employee productivity by introducing the freedom to print anywhere. The days of leaving Protected Personal Information (PPI) open in the office (for example, remember when an incoming fax would be left in the machine until the recipient is notified it is for them?) are over.

Solutions to protect your business

With our bizhub embedded Bitdefender anti-malware engine and secure print solutions, any print data sent to the MFP that is suspicious will be prevented from infiltrating the device or, depending on the circumstances, will convert the infected file to a proprietary Konica Minolta file format and print the file.  For example, if a file stored on a thumb drive contains a virus, the file format will be converted to the Konica Minolta file format and printed successfully. This means that while the file on the USB remains infected, the print job itself is free of any virus or malware and therefore can’t infect the MFP itself or transmit that virus to other devices such as other MFPs, PCs, USB drives, etc. And even better, checking print files for viruses or malware does not impact productivity. For example, the i-Series MFPs are not slowed down by the Bitdefender’s constant monitoring for potential viruses or malware: there is no slowdown in operations.

To learn more about our security offerings, visit us online and discover the end-to-end portfolio available to you.

Chris Bilello
Vice President, Solutions and Vertical Market Business Development

Chris Bilello facilitates product and solution sales to key government and major accounts, develops the company’s vertical market solutions strategy and manages Konica Minolta’s strategic partner alliances.