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How to Mitigate PrintNightmare with Azure Universal Print  

In the digital age, businesses are shifting towards cloud-based solutions to enhance their productivity and flexibility. However, one of the challenges that arise with this transition is ensuring the security and reliability of print infrastructure. Vulnerabilities like PrintNightmare can pose significant risks to organizations, leading many to hesitate when it comes to adopting digital documents and print solutions. To address these concerns, Microsoft offers a powerful cloud-based print solution called Azure Universal Print.

Azure Universal Print not only provides innovative print management capabilities but also satisfies the traditional need for paper. By leveraging this solution, businesses can mitigate the risks associated with vulnerabilities like PrintNightmare while enjoying the benefits of a cloud-based print infrastructure. In this article, we will explore how Azure Universal Print can be effectively utilized to mitigate PrintNightmare and streamline print management through cloud services.

Understanding Azure Universal Print  

Azure Universal Print is a comprehensive print management solution that offers a centralized approach to print infrastructure. Unlike traditional on-premises print servers and Active Directory installations, Azure Universal Print operates as a Platform as a Service (PaaS) hosted on Microsoft Azure. This cloud-based service consists of two key components: Azure Active Directory (AAD) and Universal Print.

Azure Active Directory serves as the cloud directory service that provides user and license management. It enables organizations to efficiently manage user access and permissions without the need for complex on-premises infrastructure. Universal Print, on the other hand, is a subscription-based service included in Microsoft 365 and Windows 10 subscriptions. It offers a seamless and user-friendly experience for managing print resources through the Azure Universal Print Portal.

Prerequisites for Implementing Azure Universal Print  

Before implementing Azure Universal Print, there are certain prerequisites that need to be fulfilled. These include:

  1. An Azure Active Directory Tenant: No subscription is required to set up Azure Active Directory, making it easily accessible for organizations.
  2. Universal Print Licenses: Each user designated to use the Universal Printing service should have the necessary Universal Print licenses. These licenses are included in commercial and educational Microsoft 365 and Windows 10 subscriptions, or they can be purchased as standalone subscriptions.
  3. Universal Print Ready Printing Device: A printing device that is compatible with Universal Print is required for seamless integration with the Azure Universal Print service.
  4. Global Admin or Printer Administrator Account: To manage the Universal Print service and perform administrative tasks, a Global Admin or Printer Administrator account is needed.

Mitigating PrintNightmare with Azure Universal Print 

PrintNightmare is a critical vulnerability that affects the Windows Print Spooler service. To mitigate the risks associated with PrintNightmare, organizations can leverage Azure Universal Print, a secure and reliable print management solution provided by Microsoft. By following these step-by-step instructions, you can effectively mitigate PrintNightmare using Azure Universal Print:

Configuring Azure Active Directory and creating a new group:

  • Log in to the Azure portal (portal.azure.com) using your administrator account.
  • Navigate to the Azure Active Directory service.
  • Click on “Groups” and select “New group” to create a new security group.
  • Provide a name and description for the group, and choose the appropriate group type.
  • Add the users who will have access to the Universal Print service to this group.
  • Save the group settings.

Assigning Universal Print licenses to users:

  • In the Azure portal, navigate to the Microsoft 365 admin center.
  • Go to the “Users” section and select the users who need access to Universal Print.
  • Click on “Licenses & apps” and choose “Licenses”.
  • Assign the appropriate Universal Print licenses to the selected users.
  • Save the license assignments.

Registering printers with the Universal Print service:

  • Access the Universal Print portal by signing in with your Azure AD account.
  • Click on “Printers” in the left-hand menu.
  • Select “Register Printer” and choose the printer manufacturer and model.
  • Follow the on-screen instructions to configure the printer connection settings.
  • Provide a unique name for the printer and assign it to the appropriate group.
  • Complete the printer registration process.

Connecting printers to Azure without a connector:

  • Ensure that your printers support direct registration with the Universal Print service. Refer to the printer manufacturer’s documentation for compatibility details.
  • On the printer’s control panel or web interface, navigate to the network settings.
  • Look for the Universal Print registration option and select it.
  • Follow the on-screen instructions to enter your Azure AD credentials and complete the registration process.
  • Once the printer is successfully registered, it will appear in the Universal Print portal.

Registering printers via the Universal Print Connector:

  • Download and install the Universal Print Connector software on a Windows Server or Windows 10 device within your organization’s network.
  • Launch the Universal Print Connector and sign in using your Azure AD account.
  • Follow the on-screen instructions to associate the connector with your Azure AD tenant.
  • Connect the printers to the device running the Universal Print Connector using USB, network, or wireless connections.
  • Open the Universal Print portal and navigate to the “Printers” section to verify that the printers connected to the connector are listed.

By following these steps, you can effectively configure Azure Active Directory, assign Universal Print licenses, register printers with the Universal Print service, and connect printers to Azure using both direct registration and the Universal Print Connector. This comprehensive approach helps mitigate the risks associated with PrintNightmare and provides a secure and streamlined print management solution with Azure Universal Print.

Sharing Printers and Provisioning on Client Devices 

Sharing printers with other members of the organization:

  1. In the Universal Print portal, navigate to the “Printers” section.
  2. Select the printer you want to share and click on “Printer properties”.
  3. Under the “Sharing” tab, enable printer sharing by toggling the option.
  4. Specify the users or groups you want to share the printer with by adding their Azure AD account names.
  5. Save the printer sharing settings.

Configuring printer-sharing settings:

  1. In the Universal Print portal, go to the “Settings” section.
  2. Select “Printer sharing” from the left-hand menu.
  3. Choose the desired sharing options, such as allowing users to manage shared printers or restrict printer sharing to specific groups.
  4. Save the printer-sharing settings.

Provisioning printers on client devices running Windows:

  1. Ensure that the client device is connected to the internet and has the Universal Print connector installed.
  2. On the client device, open the “Settings” app.
  3. Go to the “Devices” section and select “Printers & scanners”.
  4. Click on the “Add a printer or scanner” button.
  5. Windows will automatically search for printers available through Universal Print.
  6. Select the desired printer from the list and click “Add device”.
  7. The printer will be provisioned on the client device and ready for use.

Generating Printout Data Reports

Overview of generating reports using Azure Universal Print:

Azure Universal Print provides data reports that offer insights into printer usage and user activity. These reports help organizations track print volume, identify trends, and optimize their print infrastructure.

Accessing Usage and Reports in the Universal Print portal:

  1. Sign in to the Universal Print portal using your Azure AD account.
  2. Navigate to the “Usage & reports” section in the left-hand menu.

Generating and downloading Printer Usage and User Usage reports:

  1. In the “Usage & reports” section, select “Printer Usage” or “User Usage” based on your reporting needs.
  2. Choose the desired date range and any additional filters, such as specific printers or users.
  3. Click on the “Generate report” button.
  4. Once the report is generated, click on the “Download” button to save the report in a suitable format (e.g., CSV or XLSX).

Conclusion

Azure Universal Print offers numerous benefits for organizations seeking to modernize their print infrastructure. These include:

  • Centralized print management through the cloud, reducing on-premises infrastructure requirements.
  • Seamless integration with existing Azure AD and Microsoft 365 services.
  • Enhanced security measures, including secure print release and compliance features.
  • Simplified printer deployment and management across diverse environments.

Considering the vulnerabilities associated with legacy print infrastructure, it is highly recommended for organizations to embrace Azure Universal Print. By migrating to this cloud-based print management solution, organizations can enhance security, streamline print operations, and leverage the scalability and flexibility of the cloud. Azure Universal Print offers a robust and future-ready approach to print management, aligning with the digital transformation goals of modern businesses.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)  

  1. Can Azure Universal Print be used with any printer?
    • Azure Universal Print is compatible with a wide range of printers. Native support varies by printer manufacturer and model, but even printers without native support can be connected using the Universal Print Connector.
  1. Is Azure Universal Print suitable for organizations of all sizes?
    • Yes, Azure Universal Print is suitable for organizations of all sizes. It offers scalability and flexibility, making it an ideal choice for small businesses as well as large enterprises.
  1. Does Azure Universal Print require a separate license?
    • Yes, Azure Universal Print requires appropriate licenses to be assigned to users who will utilize the service. These licenses enable users to access and print to registered printers.
  1. Can I track print usage and generate reports with Azure Universal Print?
    • Yes, Azure Universal Print provides comprehensive printout data reports, allowing organizations to gain insights into print usage, trends, and potential cost-saving opportunities.
  1. How does Azure Universal Print enhance security compared to traditional print servers?
    • Azure Universal Print leverages the security features of Azure, including threat detection, encryption, and access controls, to enhance the security of print workflows. By moving print management to the cloud, organizations reduce vulnerabilities associated with traditional print servers.
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