WisBusiness: Veteran-run company seeks to lock down vulnerable printers to enhance cybersecurity

By Jon Ziegler

For WisBusiness.com

You are starting a company. The office is set up, the furniture is in place, the employees are hired and electronic security is in place to protect your customers’ data from being stolen.

One month after opening you have been hacked and lost sensitive customer information. People are outraged and are demanding answers as to how this could have happened – and you are left wondering yourself.

It’s later discovered that your network was hacked through your printers. That’s right, even printers are not safe from hackers. Dave Westlake has developed a one-of-a-kind solution to deal with this emerging trend of hacking via network nodes such as printers.

Westlake has started Print Command, which he describes as “a cybersecurity company that prevents network breaches via printers and other network nodes.” Based in Milwaukee, the company aims to thwart hacker attempts at entering into company networks via unprotected company printers.

Print Command monitors corporate networks, secures printers, identifies potential cyber attacks and other security risks (including certain employee behavior-related threats) and ensures that any areas of security vulnerabilities are locked down.

Illegal hacking has increased by 660 percent between 2006 and 2010 and costs companies millions of dollars, according to Juniper Networks.

Columbia University published a report in December 2011 showing how easy it is to hack into supposedly “secure” networks through printers. Westlake says Print Command is the unique in its management of printing and network security; other packages include software for printing security (PrintFleet, PrintAudit) and network security (Symantec, CheckPoint) but Westlake believes none cover the two like Print Command.

Westlake entered Print Command in the 2012 Governor’s Business Plan Contest and has reached the final round along with about two-dozen other companies.

Print Command is funded through friends and family who believe in the idea and an “extraordinary amount of bootstrapping,” Westlake said. The company also offers consulting services. “Ideally, we’ll finance the company through grants, equity and revenue reinvestment — not necessarily in that order,” he said.

He is a U.S. Military Academy graduate with a bachelor of science degree in environmental science and a Master of Business Administration with concentrations in marketing, organizational development and strategy from the University of Chicago. Westlake is an Army veteran with service as a combat engineer platoon leader and a light infantry brigade combat team engineer with the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, N.Y.

Print Command supports programs that help veterans once they’ve returned from duty, such as the 9/11 Memorial and Wounded Warrior Projects.

“I’ve seen more than my share of friends, classmates, and brothers-in-arms come back from Iraq and Afghanistan either on the Angel Flight (the transport that brings back the bodies deceased soldiers) or with injuries to their bodies, minds, and spirits that are so severe that they’ll never be the same again. Both situations take a tremendous toll on surviving families, friends and communities. The Wounded Warrior Project provides resources to help both the veterans and their families find some sort of normalcy in their lives again,” Westlake said.

“Print Command will always support this type of cause. My only regret in the meantime is that we’re not able to contribute more,” he added.

— Ziegler is a senior in the UW-Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication.