Even if your computer is as secure as you can make it, you may still be offering hackers entry to your network—through your printer. Columbia University researchers warn that millions of printers belonging to consumers, businesses, and government agencies could be vulnerable to attack. Among other dangers, hackers may be able to give printers remote instructions that would eventually cause them to catch fire, use hijacked printers to retrieve Social Security numbers or other sensitive information, or even gain access to an entire network, MSNBC reports in an extensive look at the dangers.
The researchers specifically uncovered problems in some Hewlett-Packard LaserJet printer lines, but say they could exist on other printers as well. HP downplays the seriousness and scope of the flaws. The problem starts in flawed “firmware” that runs “embedded systems” in printers and is updated remotely. Researchers say hackers can easily exploit this system and trick printers into installing a virus-ridden version of the operating software, and that once installed, the virus would be almost impossible to detect or fix. Even printers that are not connected to the Internet are in danger, researchers say. Click for MSNBC’s full article.