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Brother brings SSL security for printer data to low level colour laser printers

Issue #0934/2 – While researching an article on the new low cost LED colour laser printer from Brother, it became apparent that Brother has introduced a significant security feature – SSL (Secure Socket Layer) encryption of the printer data stream – and is unique in doing so. Although not a brand new feature for Brother, to find SSL encryption on a low-end device costing just €259 (Median street price in Germany) is extraordinary and provides enhanced security for small businesses as well as enterprises. We take a brief look at the threats and benefits.

Many large companies are highly sensitive to security issues where their hardware and systems are concerned – and so they should be. Likewise, it is critical that military establishments employ whatever means they can to protect data transmissions.

Why – because the larger and more profitable (or powerful) the organisation, the more a hacker stands to gain by acquiring access to a supposedly secure network. Internet transactions are protected by SSL encryption but data transmissions or file transfers within a Local Area Network (LAN) are not necessarily considered to be a threat.

Even if file transfers are secured on the network, with high-end networking systems, the concept of security when printing is quite another matter and rarely considered. In fact, in system diagrams published by the systems suppliers, printers simply do not figure! Security systems are all based around the computer, the server and the internet.

While external firewalls offer some degree of protection, organisations with global Wide Area Networks (WANs) are more at risk than smaller, discrete LANs, but the greatest danger actually lies internally from employees who have legitimate access to the network.

Brother HL-3040CNBrother HL-3040CN offers
SSL encryption of printer data streams
for even small organisations

An unprotected printer data stream leaves the document open to being intercepted between the host computer and the printer. Once captured, the page can be saved by the hacker or transmitted to a third party – after which there is no limit to the potential use of that page.

By encrypting the printer data stream at the host computer, and decrypting it at the printer, the page is secure and cannot be reconstructed without the SSL key, even if it is intercepted by a hacker.

What this achieves in practice is security of data such as bank details, personal identity data or other sensitive or confidential information when printing such documents as online receipts, banking transaction confirmations, employee pay slips, etc., etc., including military recommendations or battle plans!

Brother introduced SSL printing in its laser printers in 2007 and is currently extending the feature across its laser printer and MFP range – with the exception of the lower end of the mono range. Other than Brother, to find SSL protection for printer data streams, it is necessary to move up a level to IT network systems specialists such as Novell or printing systems specialists such as ThinPrint. No references can be found to SSL protection from any other printer manufacturer.

There is little doubt that other manufacturers will follow suit in due course but, in the meantime, even small companies can obtain peace of mind by installing laser printers and MFPs from Brother.

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