You're rightfully worried about hackers spying on you, stealing from you and otherwise wrecking your computer with nasty malware. It happens all the time. But what about your printer?
Most people don't think about what a hacker could do with access to their printer, but the truth is pretty frightening. The possibilities range from the annoying (printing prank messages) to the costly (burning through your entire supply of ink and paper) to the terrifying (spying on and copying every important document you print.) Your printer could even be a gateway into your network.
So what are manufacturers doing to combat the threat of hacking? Unfortunately, not enough. Most printers remain vulnerable to hacking attacks, and one model has recently been proven to be wide open to a variety of malware.
At this year's 44CON Information Security Conference in London, a hacker named Michael Jordon showed how he broke into a Canon Pixma MG6450 printer. He wanted to demonstrate how he could gain total control over the printer, and he had a mad, brilliant way of doing it.
This particular model of Canon printer has a small LCD screen. Jordon hacked it to play the classic 1993 computer game "Doom."
He explained how he did it on his company's security blog:
A vulnerable Pixma printer's Web interface allows users to change the Web proxy settings and the DNS server. From there, an enterprising hacker can crack the device's encryption in eight steps, the final of which includes unsigned, plain-text firmware files. The hacking possibilities go far beyond enabling choppy, early '90s gaming: "We can therefore create our own custom firmware and update anyone’s printer with a Trojan image which spies on the documents being printed or is used as a gateway into their network," Jordon wrote.
Jordon and his hacking group scanned the Web for printers open to their attack and found more than 2,000 models that could be hacked immediately. If you have a Canon Pixma printer, you should NOT let it connect to the Internet. Your manual should tell you exactly how to turn off the Internet connection. Canon says it will have a firmware update to close this hole soon, at which point it will be safer to go online with your printer.
But it's not just Canon printers that are vulnerable. As more and more devices like printers, thermostats and appliances connect to the Internet, we're going to start seeing these kind of cyberattacks happen more often in ways we can't even predict. Click here to learn how to protect Wi-Fi-enabled gadgets by securing your home wireless network.