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printerBThe words “hacking” and “printers” usually don’t go together, but recent research on the vulnerabilities of IT systems are now suggesting otherwise. A flaw in many printers (those connected to the Internet) has been discovered which allows hackers and online thieves to infiltrate an otherwise secure network.

When it comes to printers, we usually think about ink, paper jams and minor irritations but certainly NOT getting hacked. But recent research suggests that printers can be used by hackers to infiltrate computer systems.

According to researchers at Columbia University, printers that are connected to the internet are the weakest (and almost always unnoticed) link that can compromise an otherwise secure system. Details are emerging, as the research was done under government and corporate grants. The Federal Bureau of Investigation got the first look at the research results, followed by people from Hewlett-Packard. What is clear is that this new research reveals that printers CAN be used by hackers or online thieves not only to infiltrate networks, but also to steal personal information and even identities.

The security flaw involves the printer software used to run “embedded systems” which enables both advanced functions and connects the printer directly to the Internet. Alarmingly, researchers were able to hack into a printer, and give it instructions to continuously heat up the part of the device that dried the ink after it’s applied to the paper. The resulting heat caused the paper to turn brown and smoke.

The implications of this type of security flaw are concerning, but can be addressed properly and promptly with the right planning. HP is looking into the study for their own line of printers and business owners should also take precautionary steps to protect already installed devices on their networks.

If you want to know more about how you can ensure that your systems are secure, give us a call so we can sit down with you and discuss a security blueprint that meets your specific needs.

Published on 16th January 2012 by Jeanne DeWitt.

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