Could Printers Be Hacked by Cyberattacks?

Media Division | February 2, 2017

The amount of devices connected to the internet in our modern age makes available a plethora of potential exploits for attackers.  Between typical computers, IoT devices, and peripherals, there are many options for hackers.  In a recent study, researchers tested the security state of 20 office network printers, and found that almost every model is vulnerable to several very simple attacks.

How the Study Was Done

Using a custom written tool called Printer Exploration Toolkit (PRET), the research team from Ruhr University Bochum hit printers with local, internet and network based attacks.  The attacks were directed at two common software interfaces, namely, PostScript and Printer Job Language (PJL).  The types of attacks ranged from denial-of-service, which would make them go offline or into an infinite loop, protection bypass, which would reset to factory defaults, information disclosure (accessing document data or content), and manipulation of what was being printed.  The models of printers employed in the study included major vendors such as Dell, Brother, Samsung Kyocera, Lexmark, HP, and Konica, with all devices running the latest firmware.

Every single model tested was able to be brought offline by a malicious PostScript file.  Whereas, print jobs could be altered or intercepted on almost all of the devices.  There was also another issue detected where an attacker could compromise a user’s browser through JavaScript code, and be able to send commands to the printer.  There was even the possibility of physically damaging the printers by continuously writing to their memory.

The Longevity of the Problems

There are several concerns related to these vulnerabilities being discovered.  For instance, the fact that many of these exploits have been around for several years, and some of the technologies employed in printers go back years, or even decades.  There is also the factor that the same printers can be within an organization for many years, which leaves their vulnerabilities active as well.  And while drivers can often be updated or upgraded several times, it is unclear how often firmware is updated.

Cyber attacks upon computer networks or peripherals can be extremely detrimental to an organization, which is why cyber security must be formidable.  With the way that attacks advance and develop at a rapid speed, it is critical to be able to proactively prevent and mitigate them, which is where cyber intelligence can be invaluable.  Massive Alliance offers comprehensive cyber threat intelligence services that can help to keep organizations from becoming victims of a cyber attack.

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