Think it isn’t possible to get hacked through that innocent printer in the corner? Think again. Find out how a printer can get hacked and how to keep outsiders from gaining access to the print tray.
Whenever someone mentions a device being hacked, a printer is probably the last thing anyone thinks of. Because who would want to hack a printer, and why? Therefore, no one ever focuses all that much on making sure their printer’s connection is super secure. But the reality is, printers are a pretty common target for hackers.
So how does this happen? And which risks can a hacked printer pose? Here’s a look at some famous printer hacks.
These Printers Got Hacked
There aren’t that many big printer hacks that made world news, but one recent hack turned a lot of eyes. Namely, the one that asked 50 000 printers to subscribe to a popular YouTuber – including one receipt printer at a police station.
These printers printed up a leaflet that urged people to subscribe to YouTube vlogger Pewdiepie in his then battle for subscribers against the T-Series channel. The self-ascribed hacker known as HackerGiraffe used Shodan to find the publicly connected printers. According to him, there were almost a million printers connected to these ports. He described how he did it in detail through his Twitter account, which has now been deleted.
Naturally, with the number of printers that were targeted and the famous names connected to the incident, it made headlines. It also opened up a lot of discussion on how easy it is to get access to printers. But it didn’t end there.
Shortly after that, a few quick thinkers set up a business that promised to hack and send ads to connected printers. They claimed to be using the same process as Hacker Giraffe and said that they could hack any printer.
But even before all of that, a UK teen hacker made over 150 000 printers print out ASCII art and texts. These told the hacked printers’ owners that their devices are “part of a flaming botnet.”
Take Action Now: How to Prevent Printers Getting Hijacked
The issue is, a printer isn’t just a standalone device. It’s connected to a network with computers – which then also become vulnerable to attack. So the endgame might not be the printer, but it can be an easy in.
All of this is leading to a clearer view on the broader issue. People have been ignoring this security hole, and it could come back to bite them in the behind. Those that come prepared, however, have a big head start on the rest.
Here are 5 printer security tips everyone should be following:
1. Disconnect the Printer From the Internet
Disconnecting from the internet doesn’t mean disconnecting from the local network. It will still work with the local network, it will just no longer be seen by anyone else.
Many printers that come with the option to connect to the internet are automatically set up to do so once they’re installed. Search for the settings for the relevant model and turn that option off manually.
2. Set Up Stronger Passwords
If it’s important that the printer is connected to the internet, then make sure to set up a strong password for it. That way, it will be harder for anyone to gain access to it.
Most internet-connected printers come with default passwords that are easy to guess unless they’re changed.
3. Disconnect the Printer From the Landline if It’s Connected to One
All-in-one printers come with the ability to connect to a landline so they can send and receive faxes. Surprisingly, the fax machine is very much alive and well, and is still being used by thousands of companies and government departments.
During their demonstration at DEF CON, Eyad Itkin and Yaniv Balmas remotely hacked a printer and then the laptop it was connected to.
So it’s a good idea to disconnect that landline when the fax machine isn’t in use.
4. Use a VPN for Better Network Security
It’s becoming very common for people to secure their home and business networks with a VPN. This handy tool ensures that any data that is sent or received through the network is encrypted. What that means is that hackers won’t be able to identify or access any of the data or devices on the network.
There are thousands of different VPN’s out there so make sure to shop around for a good deal. Many also have free trials, which is a good way to see what, exactly, this software can do.
5. Keep up to Date With Firmware Updates
These updates are essential, and people spend the time to make them for a reason. They may include security patches against malware or security flaws within the device’s software. So make a point to visit the manufacturer’s site to look for updates.
Hackers are smart and motivated. A dangerous combination in a world where plenty of people are still unaware of the risks around the technology they use.
So stay updated, stay vigilant, and stay ahead of the curve to avoid a digital misfortune.