student data privacy

Since the issue of protecting student data privacy was first raised back in 2013, at least 40 states have passed student data privacy laws, including New York. For the most part, the laws focus on how schools (and their outside vendors) collect, use, and protect personally-identifiable student data.

If you’re like most school administrators, you’re aware of federal and state privacy laws and doing your due diligence to make sure vendors aren’t collecting student data and using it inappropriately. However, you may not realize that student data privacy breaches are still happening if your school’s printers are not properly secured.

3 ways student data privacy is compromised by everyday printing and scanning

1. Unattended print jobs

We’ve all done it – sent a print job to a shared printer and then failed to collect it immediately. Every time private student information is printed and left in the output tray, that information is vulnerable and student data privacy can be compromised. In fact, one out of ten security breaches involves printed documents.

The answer is not to go back to expensive personal printers for everybody. Schools have tight budgets and shared multifunction printers are much more cost-effective. But you do need to secure your shared printers by adding user authentication and enabling secure print features. It sounds complicated, but it’s a simple matter of creating accounting and requiring users to log in (authenticate) just as they would log into your network. At the printer or scanner, they log in by entering a PIN code or swiping their ID badge.

Once user authentication is set up, documents will no longer automatically print upon sending the job. The user goes to the printer, logs in, and then their document prints. That means no more sensitive information left sitting in the output tray. If they fail to pick it up, the file is deleted after a pre-set period of time period.

2. Untracked document distribution

Unsecured scanning and faxing are common ways that schools are unknowingly compromising student data privacy. When records are faxed or scanned and emailed without user authentication, anyone can send confidential information without your knowledge (or ability to track who sent it).

Just as you use secure print to protect printed records and information, you can also use it to control electronic distribution of documents through your printer’s other functions, including scanning and faxing. You can do that by limiting user permissions related to faxing or scanning and emailing documents. Plus, user authentication gives you the ability to track user actions, including printing, scanning, emailing, and faxing documents.

3. Unsecured devices

Here’s a sobering fact: schools are not immune from hacker attacks. In 2016, a hacker managed to print racist flyers on printers at more than a dozen college campuses simply by targeting publicly-accessible printers. If your printers are not properly secured, hackers can use them to gain access to your network and your student data.

The problem is so widespread that the Federal Trade Commission has published copier data security guidelines to improve printer security.

Secure your printers by setting up firewalls, shutting down unnecessary services, and setting up data encryption to protect the data in your print jobs that’s stored on the printer. Even better, make sure the printer deleted that data after the print job completes. And, before disposing of any printer, make sure to wipe the data on the hard drive.

Learn more: Printer Security: the Weak Link That Could Take Down Your Network

How to properly manage school printers to protect privacy

In all likelihood, you probably believe your school staff is conscientious and careful not to leave sensitive information lying around or send it to people who should not have it. And maybe they are. But what would happen if you were accused of a security breach? How can you protect yourself and your school’s reputation?

The answer is managed printing. If you have Canon printers, you can use Canon’s uniFLOW Online platform to set up user authentication, permissions, and track print and scan activity. Or, use a multi-vendor platform like PaperCut. It’s an inexpensive solution that protects student data privacy and your peace of mind.

Learn more: New Cloud-Based Print Management from Canon: uniFLOW Online

Plus, managed printing actually saves money!

BONUS: managed printing also saves you money

You probably never expected to find a solution that protects student data and also cuts costs at the same time. It sounds too good to be true, but we promise it’s not. All sorts of organizations save thousands of dollars a year with managed print:

  • Eliminate waste with user authentication (documents no longer get abandoned on the printer)
  • Set up print rules that reduce unnecessary color printing (which costs much more than black and white) and encourage more duplex printing (which saves paper)
  • Track print activity by user (or by team), and let people know you’re watching. You’ll be amazed how quickly they correct their own wasteful printing!

If you’re not tracking printing activity and securing your printers, you’re wasting money. And managed print software helps you take control and reduce that waste.

Read these articles to learn more:

Top 5 Education Printing Challenges & Best Practices to Cut Costs

Managed Print: The Easy Way to Reduce Print Expense


Canon wide format printers

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