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How to avoid cyber vulnerabilities on network-connected card printers

Dave Coons

Today, in the era of the Internet of Things (IoT), devices that once served simple, one-way processes are now “smart” and connected to networks that help organizations maximize their technology investment and improve efficiencies.

Card printers that produce secure identification for government entities are a great example of a once fairly static technology that has evolved into a network-connected device that not only produces a necessary security tool, but also collects and provides valuable insights into data that helps support more efficient operations.

However, the benefits of connected card printers come with some risk, as data is exposed to networks that potentially could be breached by third parties.

The following are some steps you can take to ensure that you are taking full advantage of the benefits of a network-connected card printing system, while avoiding the potential cyber vulnerabilities that are associated with online activity:

  • Implement a strong remote device management system -- through a remote device management system, you can easily and efficiently monitor not only the state of the card printers throughout your facility, but also usage in real time. Levels of consumables, such as secure hologram laminates and blank cards can be tracked to ensure appropriate use, and you can be automatically notified if certain, risk-specific activity is taking place so you can stop security breaches before they turn into something larger.
  • Choose printers with physical locks -- networked printers are not always in line-of-sight the way direct connected printers usually are. Physical locks can help prevent casual tampering or theft of supplies. Limit access only to authorized key operators.
  • Encrypt sensitive identity data -- all data that is needed to produce a secure ID should be encrypted at the host and all the way to the printer. Best practice is to use AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) encryption. Choose printers that can process encrypted data directly.
  • Do not provide direct access to identity data -- user access to secure data should be provided through applications only. This allows the security administrator to limit access to identity data by user authorization level.
  • Connections to data should be opened only when necessary -- secure connections to identity databases should be open only when actively accessing the data. Holding connections open longer than necessary creates an unnecessary security risk.
  • Require Web-based certificate authority for all operations that access data.
  • Always have the firewall on and configured to block unauthorized connections.
  • Run virus and spyware screens on all incoming and outgoing data -- In addition, keep virus and spyware libraries up to date, which is often something that is overlooked, but often times the easiest step to take to protect your data.

A quality network connected card printing system is only as strong as the secure network it is on, so keeping these network protection tips in mind can ensure your organization will reap the full benefits of a smart and connected printing system.

David Coons is vice president of engineering for Zebra Technologies. He can be reached at:

[email protected]

 

 

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