Print Management Insider Blog

A Lesson for the Office Equipment Channel from the Alleged Reality Winner Leaks

Posted by West McDonald on Jun 14, 2017 11:55:47 AM

RealityWinner.jpgIt’s all over the news: Reality Winner, a contractor with Pluribus International Corporation who was doing work for the U.S. government is alleged to have been the source of a leak of classified information surrounding Russia’s attempts to hack elements of the U.S. election system.  Big news for sure.

For those servicing the office equipment channel, it’s big news for you too.  If you’ve been following the story, the first clue as to where the leaked information came from started with a visual clue: some creases or other marks of a scan of the document that proved it was printed.  From there, investigators followed the paper trail.  

The details aren’t entirely clear on the exact process they used to narrow down the suspects once they knew the leak started with a printed document.  What is clear, however, is that the leak could have been much harder to trace if they didn’t have some kind of software installed for user and document tracking.  Reports were generated on who printed the document, and when.  Print Audit produces a variety of tools like Print Audit 6 and Embedded which perform this very function.

How can this story help us and our customers?  How do we get the conversation going and get our customers thinking more about it? How do we become more of a trusted advisor and not just a source for toner and devices?


Document Security has taken center stage.  With every passing week there are new stories of leaks and data security.  There is no better time to sit down with your customer and talk about their own data and document security than today.  Some simple questions:

  • How do you know who prints what?
  • Could you produce an audit trail to determine company information leaks?
  • If important documents were printed today and shared externally (without any way of tracking the paper trail!), how would you ever know?

There are 5 powerful ways you can help your customers to do a much better job of ensuring document security:

Keeping Them Honest:  Installing user and document tracking software is a great way to let company employees know that everything is being accounted for.  When people know that their print, copy and scanning activities are being logged it will modify behavior.  

Proactively Reporting:  You can help your customers by setting up standard monthly reports that will help them to keep on top of the who, what, where, when and how of office document production and use.

Keyword Alerts:  Give your customer the ability to have alerts and notifications setup on the names of particularly sensitive documents.  If the document is printed a notification can be sent to authorized personnel.


Document Lock Down: Rules can be incorporated to ensure that certain documents are not permitted to print.  This can be done globally, departmentally, or by individual.

Forensics If Necessary:  Heaven forbid something does get leaked or misappropriated, at least you will have the ability to do a fast and accurate forensic audit.  Just like the example of the alleged Reality Winner fiasco, the right tools will ensure that at least you can get to the bottom of it all quickly.

If you’re not having serious conversations with your customers about document security you are missing an opportunity to bring them huge value by helping them to protect what they’ve worked so hard to build.  Installing user and document based tracking like Print Audit 6 is a great way to plug some of those holes and help increase your influence over providers who can’t (or won’t) do this.

Need some help getting started on a document and user security practice? Get in touch with Print Audit and let our experts get you started today!  Every day you wait is another lost opportunity to help your customers secure their important company information.

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Topics: data breach, print audit, print management, print tracking, security, Document Management, document security, classified information

West McDonald

Written by West McDonald

West McDonald is Vice President of Business Development for Print Audit.

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