PC Magazine shares research into how network printers can be manipulated, taken offline, or compromised using special network attack techniques


QUOTE: ViaForensics researcher Sebastian Guerrero recently released a report in which he describes a number of ways attackers could turn your boring, humdrum printer against you. According to his findings, potential vulnerabilities range from having to reset your printer (annoying) to the breach of encrypted documents (terrifying).

The research focuses on the HP-designed JetDirect software, which is used by a number of companies’ printers to easily connect to networks. Part of what JetDirect does is add printer language commands to documents which control certain aspects of the print job, such as formatting the page. “These values are parsed and interpreted by the printer,” wrote Guerrero, whose work was translated from Spanish on viaForensics’ website. “So that if we introduce a value not expected or desired, it may cause the printer to cease to be functional.”

Taking a printer down is not the same as stealing the crown jewels, but it could easily cause havoc inside of an office. Moreover, removing the ability to create hardcopies of critical documents could  force victims to use less secure means to transmit documents—perhaps over email—which would be easier to intercept than a physical document.  We’ve discussed before how true security means more than simply locking down gateways. The new reality is that any network-connected device is a potential vulnerability; whether it’s a network printer, or a VOIP phone. The future of security will likely be a holistic one, which seeks to protect everything connected to a network.