Printers As a Gateway for Hackers

A while ago, cybersecurity specialist F-Secure found security vulnerabilities in printing systems. Various media outlets reported on it. The security loophole discovered by Finnish company F-Secure was related to HP printers which could be infiltrated. What exactly was it about though, and how can you protect yourself?

Drucker als Einfallstor für Hacker

Once again, this incident shows that printers can be a significant target for hackers. One possible motivation for the criminals is they want to infiltrate the corporate network via printing devices. In particular, printers connected directly to the network should be considered as normal computers in this respect.

Of course, you can’t just install any type of software on printers like you can on a PC. But it can be enough for hackers to gain control of the printer because companies have integrated printers into their security architectures. This position of trust can then be used to infiltrate other systems or at least steal the print data, which may contain confidential information. It is even possible to execute specific malicious code adapted for printers, which can even lead to a self-propagating worm.

Protective Measures to Close the Printer Vulnerability Loophole

There are, of course, measures to prevent such problems. For example, companies can install printers in a partitioned subnetwork. The subnetwork is only accessible via a gateway, allowing access only to known systems. All printer manufacturers have also integrated extensive protection measures into their printers. This goes so far that a printer can be secured and locked so that, in principle, no one can print with the device. That’s why these devices are usually quite openly preconfigured when delivered so that everything works smoothly for the customer initially and no frustration arises.

Every company and every IT manager should therefore take a close look at the protection options in their printers’ settings. They can then find the right balance between functionality and protection. In addition, the print data should also be protected by encryption when it is on the network. This is easily achieved, for example, with the ThinPrint Engine, which, thanks to an HP client, can even transfer the print data securely right into the printer.

HP Reacted Quickly with a Firmware Update

In this case, mentioned at the beginning, HP reacted very quickly to the report from F-Secure and closed the security loophole with a firmware update. This again shows how important it is for companies to keep their own systems up-to-date at all times. This can be done manually or, if necessary, automated, often more often quicker and more reliable.

In summary, security gaps will always occur., even in printing devices. This makes it all the more important to constantly keep a watchful eye on printers, even when it comes to security. What protective measures does the printer offer, is it encrypted, and have I always installed the latest firmware updates?

Also, read our blog post 6 Steps to Reduce Printing Security Risks and Avoid Data Loss.

For more ideas on how to identify and close security gaps, download the free Printer Security Checklist on our ezeep website.

Bernd Hausmann Avatar
Bernd Hausmann
Business Development Director, Printer Manufacturers, ThinPrint GmbH