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10/17/2007
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HP Secure Print Advantage Protects Printers From Hackers

HP Secure Print Advantage consists of software and hardware designed to harden organizations' printing infrastructure against attacks and to protect potentially sensitive information.

Hewlett-Packard on Wednesday plans to announce a new initiative to make networked printers more secure.

HP Secure Print Advantage, part of the HP Secure Advantage portfolio, consists of software and hardware designed to harden organizations' printing infrastructure against attacks and to protect potentially sensitive information.

"Printers have been turned into computers over the years and people have learned how to hack them," said Chris Whitener, chief strategist of HP Secure Advantage.

This isn't exactly a new problem. In a presentation at the 2000 Cert Conference, for example, computer security researcher Steve Nugen provided information about one incident in which a Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command printer was hacked, allowing the attacker to reprogram routing tables on other network equipment to copy print jobs to a server in Russia.

Today, many corporate printers have large hard drives, over 50 Gbytes, which may store months of valuable, possibly sensitive, print jobs. "They're often a repository for more interesting information than most people realize," said Whitener.

HP also plans to announce the HP Secure Advantage Alliance Program to provide a broad range of security offerings to companies that include products and services from HP's security partners, including Crossroads Systems, Ingrian, and SenSage.

HP Secure Print Advantage allows IT managers to enforce policies across the network and protect against malicious attacks. It meets both FIPS 140-2 Level 4 and Common Criteria EAL 4+ standards required by government customers.

The system sends encrypted print jobs to a secure document server, where the print jobs are decrypted and scanned for malware. If malware is found, the job is terminated and the incident is logged. If not, the print job is re-encrypted and sent to the printer.

Once there, the protected print job waits until credentials are presented before emerging as a printed document. This is to avoid what Mike Howard, HP's manager of worldwide security solutions, calls "print and sprint" -- a mad dash to the printer to prevent prying eyes from seeing something sensitive.

Howard recounted how one organization, which he declined to name, printed a document about planned layoffs, which was seen by employees before the staff reduction was announced. "You can imagine the effect on morale," he said.

"If you stand next to a printer long enough, you'll get some confidential information at a company," said Howard.

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