With so many devices in our home connected to the internet, it’s easy to forget that something like your smart refrigerator or printer is vulnerable to be hacked. I mean, who’d hack a refrigerator? Just because something doesn’t seem like a device that “traditionally” attracts hackers, like a laptop, smart device or desktop computer, if it’s connected to the web and it’s not protected, it’s an open target.
Recently, a debacle involving a hacker named (what else?) TheHackerGiraffe highlighted the damage anyone can do when tapping into a home that’s totally unprotected. They hacked into a massive 50,000 printers in late 2018, all in an effort to bolster a YouTube superstar’s subscription count.
There are ways to protect yourself from a similar hijacking. Read on and we’ll tell you what to do.
How printers are hacked
The gig was simple: TheHackerGiraffe used a special program that scans different ports used by consumer printers. The program, Shodan, allows you to search for people’s homes where internet-connected devices are connected. TheHackerGiraffe easily found many people with unprotected ports, and they sent out a harmless but intrusive message to strangers’ printers, all from their location at home.
It may have been a mild instance of hacking, but it goes to show you how simple it is for outsiders to gain control of things in your home. That’s why, now more than ever, it’s imperative that you ensure you’re taking care of your internet-connected devices and keeping you and your family safe from those who would seek to do you harm, like stealing your identity, personal information, or even your money.
Secure your printer and home electronics
Tip 1: Invest in a firewall that restricts incoming and outgoing network traffic, and regularly test your firewall to make sure it’s working. There are affordable options that you can install on your own or have assistance to do so. You also need to make sure your printer (or other item) has up-to-date firmware, so there aren’t any exploits floating around that potential hackers can use for their own nefarious purposes.
Tip 2: Adjust your network settings to restrict your printer and network to communicate only through specific ports, and to allow only certain networks and hosts, eliminating the way TheHackerGiraffe scanned for unprotected ports as a backdoor into your systems. Kaspersky Lab Daily recommended closing ports 9100, 515, and 721-731. Your printer’s user manual will tell you how to close ports. If you can’t find your user manual, do a search for [printer name + model + “user manual”]. Most manufacturers publish user manuals.
Tip 3: Use a VPN to connect to protect your home’s network. Virtual private networks aren’t just for businesses any more. Our homes are as complicated as any company, with multiple devices connecting to the internet. The VPN encrypts your data and protects it going in both directions — outbound from your devices to the internet, and inbound from the world wide web to your devices.
Tip 4: Unplug it. At the risk of stating the obvious: If you’re not using your printer, or you go for long periods without using it, disconnect it from the WiFi.