Chrome OS Printing via Google Cloud Print – Is It Worth The Security Risk?

By Arron Fu, CTO on September 27, 2016


One of the most frequently common questions we receive are concerns about Chrome OS printing. My answer is although Google Cloud Printing is easy to use and rather handy, it isn't perfect.

What is Google Cloud Printing?

Google Cloud Print is a technology that allows you to print over the web from anywhere, including your mobile device, to any printer. For example, if you ever wanted to print out a document at home while at work, you could use this software to send that file to your home printer and have it waiting for you once you get home. Google Cloud  Print also allows you to print web pages and other documents in PDF format and save them in your Google Docs account, which can be very convenient for Google users who have their account synced with all their devices, allowing them to print anything from any device, to any location.

Why Would Enterprises Want Google Cloud Printing Capabilities?

Normally, the configuration of your printing network to enable Chrome OS printing would involve a lot of work, but Google Cloud Print allows you to do it within just a few minutes. Probably the biggest benefit of Google Cloud printing is that it simplifies enterprise printing structures and also the complex coordination of hardware across a wide network of computers.

What Security Risks Are There?

Many are confused and therefore interchangeably use the terms Cloud Printing with Mobile Printing. However, while  printing from a mobile device is indeed Mobile Printing, itis not the same as Cloud Printing.

Cloud printing refers to technology that allows printing from a device to a printer, through the cloud. The print job is not processed on the endpoint submitting the job, or in the same network, but is rendered on cloud computing infrastructure, and then sent back down to the target printer in a format the printer understands (such as Postscript). The standout security risk to Cloud Printing is that the print job is not rendered on hardware that is owned and controlled by your enterprise. The security risk is about the same as sending a PDF document over the internet, except that the end result is printing output.

Another risk is that there is always a possibility of interception of a print job between your endpoint output and the cloud hardware. This connectivity has made these devices a prime target for hackers seeking easy access into your enterprise.

What Are Some Other Options?

If your enterprise is considering to use Google Cloud Print to launch your printers into the cloud, just be sure to take some security precautions as you would with any other remotely accessible source. This means disabling remote access features unless absolutely necessary; changing passwords on a regular basis; and never leaving sensitive data, business or personal, in memory or on the output tray.

Many third party cloud printing solutions also offer Cloud Printing capabilities, but most tend to utilize Google Cloud Print.  There are however, other printing solutions that allow enterprises to host Cloud Printing within their own corporate network, thus eliminating the potential security risks associated with third party cloud printing solutions. 


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