Printer security is serious business—mainly because the printer is often underestimated as a legit entry point. Is your business printer completely secured against printer hacks? If you have to think twice about the answer, you need to reevaluate your print environment’s security.
After all, global cybercrime is a multibillion dollar industry projected to reach $2 trillion by 2019, according to Juniper Research. You may see a printer as a simple device, but your average hacker bad guy sees an intelligent, connected machine that’s a wide-open door to your company’s most sensitive data.
On that depressing note, you need to have enough levity to laugh at the state of the threat vector sometimes. Cybercrime and human error are nothing short of hilarious every now and then. While you should definitely make sure your firm isn’t at risk of any of the following security fails, read on to learn about print security gone horribly awry—and prepare to bust a gut in the process.
1. Memes on memes on memes
In early 2017, a hacker assumed the name “Stackoverflowin” and decided to share their love for memes far and wide—like, 150,000-printers-around-the-globe wide. This amusing printer hack was executed via a script that searched for open printer ports and executed a bogus test page. Can you imagine the faces of people who thought they were grabbing an accounting reimbursement form from the printer and came up with Stackoverflowin’s test page instead?
Social media lit up while this hack was live, as people photographed the hacker’s image of a robot and message that read, “Your printer has been owned.” One media outlet even scored an interview with this hacker extraordinaire, who admitted he’d done some security work in his day-to-day life and executed the hack to draw attention to the very real issue of printer security. In the memelord’s own words, this printer hack was never intended to put business data at risk, stating, “I’m not about that; I’m about helping people fix their problem, but having a bit of fun at the same time.”
2. All-black-ink print jobs guzzle ink
In part of the ongoing sagas surrounding hacktivist group Anonymous, the hackers sent a series of all-black ink faxes with a goal of using up all of a politically motivated target’s ink. During Project Chanology, Anonymous “fax bombed” a total of over 10,000 pages that were covered in black ink from end to end. Ouch.
A fax bomb comprises several pieces of paper taped into a loop, which causes the fax to execute until the phone call used to connect fax machines is disconnected. By looping a series of all-black pieces of paper for hours, Anonymous definitely got a message across. While this hack isn’t nearly as funny as Stackoverflowin’s statement, it’s a clear message of just how easy it can be to mess with some of the world’s lower-tech print and fax machines.
3. Doomed print status screens
Security researcher and hacker Michael Jordon decided to upgrade—or perhaps downgrade—his printer to play the video game Doom on the print status screen. By remotely accessing the printer’s web interface, Jordon downloaded his own firmware and was able to target and shoot demons on his print display.
While this too-strange-to-be-true hack is fairly harmless and humorous, Jordon’s message isn’t just about PC gaming. It’s about how easy it is for other hackers to update some printer’s firmware from their personal computer. Chances are, you won’t get a hacker who just wants to play a shooter game on your printer—it’s way more likely they’ll have financial and criminal motives to spy on your sensitive print data.
4. A constitutionally wrong hack
Swiss artist Thibault Brevet has a microhacking device that resembles a Jeopardy buzzer. The tiny device doesn’t look like much, but when it’s plugged into many different printers, it has the power to override the printers’ interface and make it spit out a copy of the US Constitution.
While this hack job is part performance art, it just goes to show how risky it is for your organization to have a printer with unsecured ports. While insiders with malicious intent are relatively rare, a single Jeopardy buzzer or USB device can pack a lot of damage.
Don’t be a print blooper
Printer hacks occur every day. They range from stories like these amusing statements by security researchers to far scarier security incidents that occur on a daily basis. Your printer is far more than just office hardware—it’s a meaningful endpoint on your company’s network with a hard drive, software, and internet connectivity. While you can use the technological advancements in printing to play Doom on a 3-inch screen like Jordon, your average hacker has far more nefarious ideas.
No one wants to be “that IT person” whose printer started spitting out memes or was the center of a massive, reputationally-devastating security incident. Fortunately, with smarter print solutions that self-heal and offer built-in security features, you can ensure your print environment isn’t a risk or the source of an internet-famous hacking fail.