Lexmark's new program monitors printed data

Lexington-based Lexmark International on Thursday will unveil a new product that seeks to bolster security at companies by tracking how often and by whom certain documents are printed.

Called the Lexmark Secure Content Monitor, the software program stores an image of pages that are printed, scanned, copied or faxed on network-connected printers. The images are then run through an optical character-recognition program that takes the words off the page, so to speak. The words can then be compared automatically to a list of keywords that companies can set up to determine whether the documents contain sensitive information. If they do, an alert can be issued via email to notify someone of the printing.

When the document is viewed in the program, the keywords are highlighted and the total number of times they are included is also shown.

The entire process can be as quick as a few minutes.

"If it goes through the device, we're going to catch it," said software architect Michael Whitlock.

The program seeks to fill a hole in how sensitive information is monitored.

"Email and other communications are already being tracked," said Michael Vincent, worldwide solution marketing manager. "The big hole out there is paper-based documents, documents in your file folder and printouts.

"How are people tracking them? They're not today."

The program is not designed to run first and then only allow approved documents to print. Vincent said that would have decreased productivity using the printers.

"The way we're positioning it is as a monitoring solution, not a lock-down," he said.

Lexmark will initially target the offering to customers such as branches of government or companies in industries such as defense, manufacturing, health care and financial services.

"Those have the most to lose," Vincent explained, citing the importance of security in defense projects, new product development in manufacturing, and customer information in health care and finance. "But it can really apply to any business," he said.

In marketing the product, Lexmark cited a study by a business consulting firm, Navigant, that suggests the costs of dealing with data breaches are skyrocketing. Vincent noted that it is often unintentional actions by employees that lead to data breaches.

With the Lexmark Secure Content Monitor, a company's information security staff can tell who printed, copied, scanned or faxed a document, on which printer that action was done and what time, and if it was a copy, the number of copies created.

The program also lets users go back in and search for new keywords later instead of just being limited to a pro-active approach.

"It's not just let me find the word 'classified,' either," Vincent said. "It's let me find 'classified' if it's on the same page as something else."