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HP User Authentication

Sharing printers means thinking about security and accountability, both of which rely on robust user authentication

Sharing a printer in a business environment makes a lot of economic sense, and consolidating print resources in fewer, larger printers extends this financial wisdom, but can create security issues. If the same printer is shared among employees at different levels of the management structure, it may be important to ensure confidentiality for documents.

It's also usually important to be able to allocate printing costs between departments or even to individuals and for both these reasons, user authentication is an important feature of HP enterprise-level printers, such as the LaserJet Enterprise Flow MFP M880z.

This machine has very flexible authentication facilities, ensuring that individuals can send print jobs and delay printing until they sign in at the printer. The process of calling up a job already sent, when you're at the control panel of the printer is called pull printing'. At the simplest level, a PIN can be used for identification, but Windows, Kerberos and LDAP authentication is also available.

Not everybody needs the same level of access to multi-function devices and HP's FutureSmart tool works with corporate IT policies to allocate permissions separately for scanning, copying, printing and for direct sending of documents from the control panel of the machine, internally or externally through email.

Authentication can be tied in with physical access methods, such as proximity cards and smartcards, by adding third-party readers into the hardware integration pocket provided on the machine. This interface enables a hardware device to be attached to the MFP and integrated with its operating system, so information gleaned from hardware readers can be used as all or part of effective authentication.

Near Field Communication (NFC) is also supported, with tap-to-print from enabled devices ensuring that a direct link can be set up with the printer, simply by bringing the device into proximity with the machine.

An extension of this technology, tap-to-authenticate, will be introduced in Spring 2014. If required, NFC can be combined with other authentication methods, such as a password or PIN, to prevent the use of an NFC device by somebody other than its owner.

Anybody needing to ensure that a document stays secure from originating computer to printer can encrypt it and send it to the LaserJet Enterprise Flow MFP M880z's secure 320GB hard drive. Encryption on the drive is to the AES256 standard, so even if the hard drive were physically removed from the printer, data on it would be extremely hard to retrieve. As an option, the drive can be physically constrained under lock and key within the printer too.

This kind of end-to-end Secure Encrypted Printing is enabled by the latest version of HP's Universal Printer Driver, which incorporates the same symmetric AES256 encryption as on the secure hard drive, to ensure documents retain their encryption all the way through the printing process.

To do this, the creator of the document enters a password at the time of scanning or issuing the print job and again when pulling the job through to get it printed or to view the result of the scan.

The passwords used to access print jobs are themselves encrypted, so can't be obtained from the printer and there's secure erasure of completed jobs, in line with NIST Special Publication 800-88 recommendations. This includes overwriting print files with random data.

Depending on the areas in which a company undertakes business, user authentication can be a very important consideration. HP combines hardware and software authentication, which can be combined together for dual-source or multi-source validation, all within the multifunction printer itself.

By providing industry and government standards for document security, authentication becomes part of a complete security system, designed to work with a company's existing security regime. It ensures the only people to receive hard copy are those authorised to see it.

For more advice on transforming your business, visit HP BusinessNow

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