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A brief history of the printer…

The first recorded use of a printer for commercial print is reported to be Gutenberg’s printing press in 1450.  His first publication was the Gutenberg Bible – producing approximately 180 copies.

However, it is believed that the Chinese revolutionized the “information age” way before this – using printing presses to produce leaflets and pamphlets.  There is evidence that the Chinese were printing books soon after Christ was born. The Diamond Sutra, a Buddhist book from Dunhuang, China from around 868 A.D., is said to be the oldest known printed book.

In 1846, a Richard March Hoe modernized the printing press – and developed a printer capable of printing 8,000 pages per hour! 

The ubiquitous Charles Babbage is said to have designed the first mechanical printer in the 1800’s.  Computer printing began in 1938 – when an inventor called Chester Carlson invented a dry printing process which he called ‘electrophotography’ – now commonly called Xeroxing. Carlson’s invention laid the solid foundation for the global proliferation of printers.

In 1976, according to IBM, the first IBM 3800 printer was installed in Woolworth’s data center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  This printed an impressive 100 pages per minute.

Then, in 1976 the first commercially available printer was invented.  But believe it or not, it was not until 1988 that HP released the DeskJet printer. 

Now look at us…

It is understood that we print around 2.8 trillion pages per year.  2.8 trillion pages per year every year!!

This then leads to a very serious question and issue…

What is on those 2.8 trillion pages – and how safe is the information contained on those pages? 

Printing in the workplace….

On average, a company employee prints 10,000 pages each year.  This again raises concerns:

  1. How safe and secure is the information on those pages? Once printed, the documents can literally be transported anywhere and passed to anyone.
  2. Is the printer device and your printer network vulnerable to external threats and hacks?

In my next Blog, I will cover how printing 10,000 pages per employee per year has a huge impact on net zero and sustainability targets!  And, more importantly, how a holistic approach to output management can help a global company achieve significant reductions to help achieve their net zero goals.

Back to the security of printed documents…

Unfortunately, at a personal level, we are all far too aware of how hackers and scammers are forever looking to access our data and credentials.  The number of fake and bogus emails, texts, and WhatsApp messages is really concerning.

The level of hacks is magnified in the business world. 

In today’s “Digital Information Age” and with the proliferation of printed documents, the security and protection of confidential documents is a paramount concern for all businesses.  From customer data, company-centric accounts and reports, R&D documents and Intellectual Property means every single business must take and maintain proactive measures to protect all sensitive and confidential information from unauthorized access and breaches. 

In a typical open office environment where printers are shared by many employees, the risk of confidential documents falling into the wrong hands, accidentally or maliciously, is high.  These risks do not just compromise an organization’s information confidentiality – but can also potentially lead to reputational damage, financial loss through punitive fines and legal implications.     

And, what about the networks…

An organization’s printer network could easily be the most overlooked security threat.  The typical and most common risks associated to document management are outdated printer drivers and data mismanagement.   

In a recent Blog, one of my colleagues set out a few reasons to why printers are open to attack:

  • They have IP ports that enable them to connect to the internal corporate network and, in some cases, the public Internet
  • They typically rely on device drivers, which are difficult for administrators to validate and update across large fleets of printers and MFPs
  • They have hard drives that store data from an organization’s most sensitive business documents
  • Many have the ability to receive and send email, as well as wirelessly connect to users’ mobile devices for convenient ad-hoc print
  • They sometimes have unsecured USB and other physical ports that offer a way to discreetly load malware
  • They are an afterthought. They are “somebody else’s problem.” They are everywhere.

Many large customers are realizing that the path for vulnerability is the large, unwieldy hub-and-spoke network that has long been a mainstay of their environment. But as applications have changed, many companies have altered their new systems to pass only authenticated, verified packets through their networks.

That way, their systems can run on the open Internet, and no VPN is required for application access.  Furthermore, according to Gartner, by 2023, 60% of enterprises will phase out most of their remote access virtual private networks (VPNs) in favor of Zero Trust Network Access.

With employees working from home or in a hybrid arrangement (meaning a combination of home and office), it is no wonder that securing data access is an important topic.

Hackers, scammers and vulnerabilities are here to stay.  Forever.  Each and every individual and business must do all it can to ensure protection and safety measures are put in place.  We’ll address these my next installment of this series.

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