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Security & privacy

Microsoft’s PrintNightmare mess continues – Here’s what to do to keep your PC safe

Updated 7/19/2021 – Microsoft issued a patch a few weeks ago to fix a flaw known as PrintNightmare that impacts Windows Print Spooler. Unfortunately, another new flaw with the Print Spooler has been discovered that isn’t addressed by the patch. You may want to go ahead and disable the Print Spooler until Microsoft has an update that actually works. Keep reading for steps to disable the Print Spooler.

Hackers are the bane of just about everyone’s existence. It seems like every time we find a way to stop them from stealing our information, they find another clever way to break into our computers and wreak havoc. Tap or click here for 20 security secrets hackers don’t want you to know.

We saw this not too long ago, with the pipeline ransomware disaster. Unfortunately, another critical error allowing hackers to enter our computer systems has popped up.

Dubbed PrintNightmare, this critical flaw is now being used by hackers to break into Windows computers and cause a bevy of problems. Read on for details of this nasty vulnerability and how to get a quick fix.

What is PrintNightmare

The aspects of PrintNightmare involve a great deal of detailed information. Simply put, it’s a vulnerability in your computer network that opens a backdoor for hackers. Even worse, it affects all Windows computers.

Researchers discovered the flaw after they actually released a test code. Once the test code was discovered to be problematic, it was deleted. Unfortunately, it was out there long enough to make it to the Dark Web.

The code allows hackers to access your computer remotely and do just about whatever they want. This flaw is in your Windows Print Spooler service. Thankfully, Microsoft has released an emergency patch to fix the problem.

How to update Windows

Microsoft released an emergency patch to fix the PrintNightmare vulnerability. We now know that the update doesn’t address the latest flaw, but it’s always a good idea to keep your system updated and especially in times like these when threats are lurking.

Here’s how to update your PC:

Click the Start Menu and tap Settings. Click Update & Security > Windows Update. From there, you’ll be able to see if updates are available for download. If not, click Check for Updates to force the process.

You’re looking for 2021-07 Cumulative Update for Windows 10 Version 20H2 for x64-based Systems (KB5004945). Here’s what it’ll look like:

This update does fix one of the Print Spooler flaws that Microsoft knew about a while ago. Sadly, it doesn’t address the latest flaw that was discovered. To be safe from this threat, you should disable Print Spooler.

How to disable Windows Print Spooler

The first thing that you need to know is by disabling the Print Spooler, you won’t be able to print documents. If you need to print something ASAP, enable the Print Spooler and then disable it again to keep hackers from infiltrating your system. Yes, it’s annoying but could save you from a serious hack.

The new threat allows hackers to execute malicious code that elevates their access to your system. Here’s how Microsoft describes the threat:

“An elevation of privilege vulnerability exists when the Windows Print Spooler service improperly performs privileged file operations. An attacker who successfully exploited this vulnerability could run arbitrary code with SYSTEM privileges. An attacker could then install programs, view, change, or delete data, or create new accounts with full user rights.

‘An attacker must have the ability to execute code on a victim system to exploit this vulnerability. The workaround for this vulnerability is stopping and disabling the Print Spooler service.”

Here are steps to disable Print Spooler:

  • On your Windows PC, type PowerShell in the search box found in the lower left corner.
  • Right-click the search result of Windows PowerShell and select Run as administrator.
  • Type the following command and then hit Enter: Stop-Service -Name Spooler -Force.
  • To prevent the service from starting again at restart, type the following command and then hit Enter: Set-Service -Name Spooler -StartupType Disabled.

Remember, disabling the Print Spooler means you will not be able to print locally or remotely. To turn the service back on, follow these steps.

How to enable Print Spooler:

  • On your Windows PC, type PowerShell in the search box found in the lower left corner.
  • Right-click the search result of Windows PowerShell and select Run as administrator.
  • To enable the Print Spooler type the following command and then hit Enter: Set-Service -Name Spooler -StartupType Automatic.
  • To start the Print Spooler at restart again, type the following command and then hit Enter: Start-Service -Name Spooler.

After following these steps, your printer should begin working properly again. Microsoft is working on another update that will hopefully fix these vulnerabilities once and for all. We’ll let you know when the update is ready for download.

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