Secure Printing is an Industry-Wide Challenge

Joann Whitcher
April 30, 2019
Security Printing Cast&cure Bottles

The whole point of security printing is to disrupt the efforts of counterfeiters and other bad players. While its traditional purview is the banking, financial, insurance, or government sectors, the preponderance of hacking, forgery, and counterfeiting, and the ease with which it is accomplished, means that businesses of all stripes face constant assault in the battle to keep their information or products secure.

The prevalence of digital communications in the financial and related industries, as well the evolution to a cashless society might counter some of the counterfeiters’ efforts – are printing fake banknotes still a profitable operation? – security printing is still a critical enterprise. 

There is a need for a broader definition of what security printing means and for a greater amount of print providers to think of themselves as “security printers.”  Maybe instead it should be called “secure printing.”

From packaging to book printers to retail to businesses that serve the ACE industry, along with financial printers, protection of files and products must be be considered.

Within the digital printing community, several vendors are tackling their customers’ rising concerns around security.  Here are three different approaches.

Scodix Cast&Cure

With counterfeiting on the rise, authenticating products is more of an imperative, stated Amit Shvartz, Scodix marketing VP.

Scodix’s offering to solve this challenge is Cast&Cure, officially launched in North America at Print 18. Cast&Cure takes its cue from its traditional counterpart, known as cast and cure, in which a holographic effect is achieved through a lithographic/offset printing process utilizing UV technology. Film is ‘etched’ and then cured to get the effect.

Scodix’s Cast&Cure approach creates a high-impact 3D holographic effect, the ink jetting the clear polymer directly on to the sheet before passing through a foiling unit, which leaves a micro-embossed pattern on the polymer. The light is refracted, creating a holographic effect. Scodix’s PAS (Pin Activate Secure) technologies helps to deliver ultra-fine detail and registration, says Sharvtz.

While holograms were discounted as a reliable method of security once the Chinese cracked the code, Scodix, said Sharvtz, “can control the film and by this the pattern that is printed, and in parallel have variable digital elements that are being layered onto the package, so we can achieve a double securely feature. 

“In addition, he added, “there is no analog way to print cast and cure with the height element of the Scodix effect.”

Scodix sees a range of market opportunities for security printing beyond the financial sector, including retail, publishing, and packaging, as well for legal forms of identifications, such as passports and driver’s licenses.

End-users can choose from a variety of standard off-the-shelf holographic patterns, or customize their own designs. And that’s where the fun begins.

So Nike, for example, can create the holographic effect using its logo. One client, a publisher located in Hong Kong, is using Cast&Cure to tag all his books to fight counterfeiting.

With Scodix Cast&Cure, users can now mix and match up to nine different enhancement effects, including Scodix Sense, Scodix Foil, Scodix Spot, Scodix VDP/VDE, Scodix Metallic, Scodix Glitter, Scodix Crystal, and Scodix Braille.

Konica Minolta KM-1

Konica Minolta doesn’t yet have a commercial solution to solve the security conundrum. “We are at the beginning of this journey,” explained Mark Hinder, head of business development, Business Solutions Europe, Konica Minolta.

Konica Minolta’s concept is to leverage KM-1’s variable-data inkjet capabilities to create what it is calling variable intaglio, across the entire sheet. 

With traditional intaglio, the raised image adds tactile protection to documents. The intaglio impression pressures the ink into the fibers of the paper, embedding the ink into the paper.

How does the KM-1 create that tactile protection? “We can play around with drop heights to create the intaglio process, which is what makes us unique,” says Hinder.

“We have already tested the viability of the intaglio process using the KM-1,” he adds.

While security printing wasn’t top of mind during development of the KM-1, the company is taking a deep look at the viability of applying its inking system to implement a security layer.

“We are looking at creating something very unique for security printing, an invisible ink that leverages our unique inking system,” Hinder confirmed. “Our technology lets us play around with the intaglio process in conjunction with security.

We have the right ink set and know which substrates can be used. It’s an exciting process, “ he said..

The whole project came on the back of a customer request, said Hinder.

“We realized, with the KM-1; we have a closed-loop intaglio process jetting the UV inks and controlling the variable height,” he noted.


HP DesignJet

HP is tackling the issue of security from a different angle. Noting that while IT departments apply strict protocols and security measures to a company’s computer network, similar standards are not applied to printing and imaging devices. In other words, they are as exposed as a babe in the woods.

According to HP’s research, only 22% of companies monitor printers for threats. Any unsecured device on the network exposes the entire network to the possibility of a cybersecurity attack.

In the first half of 2017, the worldwide breach level index was up more than 160%, reported HP.

“The printer sits at the end of network, and is a potential source of a hack,” said Xavier Juarez, worldwide strategic marketing manager for HP DesignJet and PageWide XL printers. “If you want to hack into a network, you always go to the weakest link.”

And if that link happens to be a wide-format device…..

Hence, HP’s push to promote its security features. The DesignJet portfolio has the most advanced security features of any wide-format device, said Jaurez, and HP will continue to extend those features across the portfolio. Security features are already an integral part of HP’s enterprise printers, including tis laser and PageWide technologies.

The HP DesignJet T1700 44-inch printer for CAD and geographic information system (GIS) workgroups is the newest HP device to feature this increased level of security.

The DesignJet T1700 prints CAD and GIS applications for infrastructure construction, urban planning, worldwide defense departments, public sector agencies, and utilities industries such as oil, water, gas, and electricity, while protecting printers and data from unauthorized access. 

The company is taking a multi-prong approach. The security solution, standard on the DesignJet, includes a self-encrypting hard drive on the printer that ensures it is only readable by the printer itself, even if removed from the device. HP Secure Boot ensures BIOS protection, and Whitelisting only allows approved firmware to be installed and run on the device.

HP JetAdvantage Security Manager configures the settings of all the printers, the entire fleet of printers, whether that is one or hundred, said Celine Kamoun worldwide strategic product manager - Large Format Design at HP.

“HP’s security manager software is a very important tool to be compliant, she said. “It allows the operator to perform as many automatic assessments as he wants.

The solution is designed to protect the confidentiality of the document. If it detects a “hacker” it will stop printing, and alert the IT staff that someone is trying to get into the network. It won’t continue until there is security clearance.

“In today’s connected world, this type of security is not an option,” said Juarez.

HP is also leveraging social media to educate the business community around security issues presented by exposed wide-format printers. Offering some insight on a LinkedIn post, Allison Dickherber, HP marketing manager, wrote, “We are hoping to drive conversations with that customers that Firewalls alone cannot withstand attacks from sophisticated hacked and that old and aging large-format printers are just as vulnerable as PCs and other end points.”