Security Threats For Printers

2012-08-01 15:33:43

Published on 2012-08-01 15:33:43

The internet's increasing importance to society means that there are now more threats to computer users than ever before.

Despite a rise in antivirus and firewall software, online threats still linger for computer users and it is important that customers are as well-prepared as possible

Due to sophisticated viruses currently circulating online, malware can now easily spread to internet-enabled devices, potentially causing errors in printers and wasting the capacity of ink cartridges.

In order to tackle this issue, computer users should guarantee that their antivirus software is fully up-to-date and checks are carried out regularly.

By doing this, malware can be identified and removed before it spreads throughout a system, furthering problems and irritating web users.

However, viruses are not only frustrating, they can also be dangerous when it comes to sensitive personal information, which can be picked up by cyber criminals and used to steal money or carry out identity theft.

This highlights that there are many considerations for web users once they purchase their printer.

Instead of rushing into installing their new device, computer owners should guarantee that their antivirus software is running adequately and fully updated.

Once they are certain that their antivirus applications are running at their full potential, web users can install their printers with peace of mind.

The security risks associated with printers have been outlined by professor Salvatore Stolfo and researcher Ang Cui, who is part of Columbia University's Intrusion Detection System Laboratory.

The group utilised the firmware of a HP laser jet printer in order to install malware that could have an adverse effect on the device.

The Guardian reported that HP took the threat seriously, issuing over 56 firmware updates quickly in order to reduce the potential damage of the breach.

Even though the ink cartridges provider acted resolutely in this case, the news provider reported on recent research by Mr Stolfo and Mr Cui, discovering that just one to two per cent of HP laser jet printers have been updated.

As well as this, the study found that one in four of these devices still make use of default password settings for updates.

Stolfo believes that other brands may be susceptible to such dangers.

"There are always myths and hoaxes, but not in this case. We have demonstrated not only that the firmware update function of certain printers is faulty, but that there are still a number of known vulnerabilities in the real-time operating systems [such as Linux] used in a large number of printer models," he stated.

The research found over 100 vulnerabilities within the OpenSSL encryption protocols, which could be utilised to spread malware through printers and into internal systems.

Mr Stolfo believes that many companies need to put in more effort in order to combat security threats.

He claimed that many businesses manufacture their devices "on a shoestring", with "their revenue model being to chug out as many printers as cheaply as possible. And basically what can seem like washing their hands of them".

Addressing security issues should be prioritised by businesses that use printers.

Although most people assume that viruses and malware can only emerge through websites or emails, the HP incident underlined how cyber criminals are experimenting with new technology.

Graeme Batsman, director of, has urged for small businesses in particular to take more action on the issue, noting that many of them "don't care" if they encounter such problems.

Mr Batsman commented on the attitude of small and medium-sized businesses, he said: "The question is are they protected? And in most cases they're doing pretty much nothing. So I guess the public are probably concerned, but it's the small and medium companies that aren't doing much.

"Companies see the stories about leaks and hacks quite a lot, but the main thing is people think that it won't happen to them. We know things will increase and get worse. More people are using computers and they have to wake up."

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