Skip to Content
© Jannoon028 |
Security & privacy

Patch your printer! Millions of devices impacted by 16-year-old flaw

Office equipment and home peripherals are bought and installed daily. New owners blissfully going through the motions recommended by the manufacturer as usually things like printers, webcams, or card readers need software drivers to work. Tap or click here for free programs to keep your computer software up to date.

For the most part, users will go through the process without thinking twice about the implications of the drivers. They are necessary for the device to work and are released by the original manufacturer. So, they must be safe, right?

Well, it was recently proven that isn’t always the case. Firmly in line for the award of the oldest vulnerability, a printer flaw was discovered 16 years after release. And it’s still being used.

Here’s the backstory

Cybersecurity company Sentinel Labs stumbled across the vulnerability in the driver installation files for an HP printer. As the team set up a new printer in their office, the Process Hacker software flagged something strange.

The team discovered that a high severity vulnerability was present in the driver files. Digging deeper, they found that the flaw is common in HP, Xerox and Samsung printer software and has been used since 2005.

“This vulnerability affects a very long list of over 380 different HP and Samsung printer models as well as at least a dozen different Xerox products. Since all of these models are in fact manufactured by HP, we reported the vulnerability to them,” Sentinel Labs explained.

How the flaw is exploited

It would be easy to assume that a 16-year-old unpatched flaw shouldn’t pose a security risk, as nobody has actively exploited it. That might be partly true, but hackers are now aware of it after simply reporting it to HP.

The team explained that the driver software is installed on your computer whether you complete the setup process or not. When exploited, the driver accepts data without validating it.

That means hackers use the kernel driver vulnerability to give themselves System-level privileges on your machine. From there, hackers can do what they wish with your machine.

What you can do about it

Owners of HP, Samsung or Xerox printers should download the patch made available Since it affects hundreds of printers, it is generally a good idea to update the drivers even if you aren’t sure that your printer is on the list.

To get the patch, go to HP’s support page. On the Support page, search for your printer model and the results will point you towards the download page to fix the issue.

“A potential buffer overflow in the software drivers for certain products could lead to an escalation of privilege. HP has provided print driver update ‘Printer_CVE-2021-3438_update.exe’ for potentially affected products. To obtain the update, go to the HP Software site and search for your printer model,” HP said.

Shopping for a printer?

Kim’s pick is the Epson EcoTank. It uses refillable ink bottles that last much longer than cartridges. Normal printers can run out of ink in the blink of an eye, but these high-tech printers come with a ridiculous amount of ink. That means you can just fill and chill, as Kim loves to say.

In fact, you’ll get up to two years’ worth of ink when you buy an EcoTank printer. Some replacement sets come with enough ink to print up to 6,000 pages in color.

Check out Epson EcoTank printers at a Best Buy, OfficeMax or Office Depot near you, or shop online at

Keep reading

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

Complete your home office (and save on ink) with Kim’s favorite printer

Komando Community background

Join the Komando Community

Get even more know-how in the Komando Community! Here, you can enjoy The Kim Komando Show on your schedule, read Kim's eBooks for free, ask your tech questions in the Forum — and so much more.

Try it for 30 days