HP Printers Remotely

November 29, 2011 by staff 

HP Printers RemotelyHP Printers Remotely, Security researchers at Columbia University have accused HP of selling printers with a flaw that could let hackers gain remote control over the devices. Once compromised, the access can be used to steal personal information, attack networks, and even set printers on fire by feeding them a continuous stream of instructions designed to heat them up.

The researchers, funded by government and industry grants, reported the flaw to federal officials and HP this month, and gave a demonstration to MSNBC, which has an extensive article on the subject today. HP told MSNBC that it is reviewing the details, but denied that the problem is as extensive as claimed by Columbia PhD student Ang Cui and Professor Salvatore Stolfo.

Cui and Stolfo say they can remotely install malicious software onto HP LaserJet printers because the printers accept software updates without examining digital signatures, and check for updates each time they accept a print job. “In one demonstration of an attack based on the flaw, Stolfo and fellow researcher Ang Cui showed how a hijacked computer could be given instructions that would continuously heat up the printer’s fuser—which is designed to dry the ink once it’s applied to paper—eventually causing the paper to turn brown and smoke,” according to MSNBC. “In that demonstration, a thermal switch shut the printer down—basically, causing it to self-destruct—before a fire started, but the researchers believe other printers might be used as fire starters, giving computer hackers a dangerous new tool that could allow simple computer code to wreak real-world havoc.”

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