Epson Adds Security to Laser Printers

Epson has announced an extreme solution to the problem of users who print sensitive documents to network queues but then forget to pick them up — a printer that requires a smartcard before it will print.

Documents to be printed using the EpsonNet Authentication Print system are first stored on a server much as they would be with any network print queue. But where a conventional print queue simply spools the documents in the correct driver format, the Epson system holds them on the server until a user causes the job to be printed by presenting one of a number of types of access cards; contactless or proximity smartcards are supported.

According to Epson, the technology should interest companies in a range of sectors such as banking, healthcare, education, hotels and, inevitably, the military, basically anyone who has cause to worry about the undisciplined use of laser printers.

The kit comprises an interface card, which slots into the printer itself, a contactless card reader and 10 swipe cards, and requires server management software. Epson models supported include the EPL-N2550, EPL-N3000, Aculaser 2600, Aculaser C2600, Aculaser C3800, Aculaser C4200, and Aculaser C9100.

Assuming that companies can face the hassle of managing yet another piece of insecure hardware — the smartcards — this system could have some advantages. The issue it addresses is certainly on the rise for all sorts of reasons, including regulatory compliance.

The system is relatively expensive on a per-printer basis — each printer kit costs £567 ($1114) — but it is likely that an organization would only need a small number of printers to be secured per site. The EpsonNet Authentication Server software costs £707.

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