It’s easy to think that security breaches only happen to large corporates. Sadly, the facts suggest otherwise. Every year PwC and Infosecurity carry out a survey of UK businesses for the government. The 2015 survey reports that 74% of small businesses had a security breach in 2014, up from 60% the year previously.

There’s also a misconception that all leaks and data thefts involve digital data. But think about some of the most high profile security breaches of the past few years. Often these have involved brief cases left on a train or ministers carrying sensitive document so they can be photographed and read.

There’s no reason physical documents are more secure than electronic data. In fact, before data reaches print it has to pass through security firewalls and barriers, but the question is, how safe is it once it’s at the printer? The increase in remote working supported by wireless and ‘follow me’ printing has increased the risk of documents falling into the wrong hands as this allows users to print to any supported network printer within an office. These days it can be difficult to control printer usage.

Even the smallest of organisations holds some confidential data – whether staff contact details or new product specifications. And, as the PwC survey shows breaches aren’t always made by gangs of clever hackers. Some 31% of small businesses suffered staff-related security lapses over the past and 50% of the worst breaches were caused by human error.

There are solutions to eliminate unauthorised printing by restricting access to a limited range of users and disabling unused protocols and network ports. Access is only granted by pin code or user name and password and, if necessary, rules can be set up to set user parameters.

It is also vital that print jobs are protected at the printer. Some printers enable users to store documents prior to printing on the printer’s hard disk drive or secure data card. This solution helps to ensure that sensitive data is protected; users can only access content after entering a pin or password and once printed, the document is automatically deleted from the system.

Many printers also feature ‘scan to email’ which converts a scanned image to a PDF so it can be emailed directly to someone’s inbox. If a document is very sensitive, some printers enable the encryption of these PDFs so that they can only be opened with a password.

Some documents still need to be faxed, but because these days fax machines aren’t used so frequently as they once were, incoming documents can easily be left lying around waiting for collection. Using the latest solutions, incoming faxes can be directly emailed to a designated recipient, eliminating the need for a hard copy all together.

For someone to leak information it takes a motive – but also an opportunity. By putting the right technology in place to ensure sensitive documents remain confidential, organisations can block this opportunity at source.

By Andrew Hall, Marketing Manager, OKI Systems UK