Can you hack a printer? Yes, you can. Any printer has input and output communication ports, and operates using software applications, network drivers, and communication protocols. So all of them are, in theory, hackable.
Can you hack a non-networked printer? No, you can’t. You cannot hack it even if the printer is connected to a computing device, if the computer is not connected to a network. There is catch, though. An attacker can still sniff a wireless connection between a computer and a printer, even if no connection to the outside world is in place. Maybe you’ve heard a lot of buzz in the media lately about needing to secure your wireless printer, so here is what you need to know.
Hacking Techniques Evolve
Therefore, the problem with hacking a printer is related to your network’s security, not the printer itself and this applies to wireless printers, traditional printers, and even dot matrix printers.
Protecting against wireless printer hacking means protecting it against malware means you have to secure your network first. Printer models that are aimed at home users are more vulnerable, lacking some of the advanced built-in security features of printers designed for corporate users, which requires implementation of further measures to protect your home network.
A recent experiment written about by Wired shows that even a corporate printer connected to an open Wi-Fi network located in the top floors of a high-rise building can be penetrated using a simple combination of a drone, a smartphone and a sniffing software application. If your communication ports, Wi-Fi network, and access to networked devices are left open and unprotected, hacking the network is a piece of cake. With roughly 130 million printing hardware devices sold annually around the world, then that’s a lot of opportunity!
Implement Basic Security Measures
How you can secure a wireless printer that is connected to your home network.
You definitely need a reliable firewall. The Windows operating system comes with a built-in firewall application but more advanced protection might require purchase of specialized firewall by a third-party software vendor. Tweak your network settings to restrict your printer, and the network as a whole, to communicate only through the intended ports and to connect only to trusted hosts and networks. All optional, and rarely used, protocols like AppleTalk must be turned off as well as services that allow easy remote access to your printer and your computing device. Examples of such services are telnet, web, ftp, and SNMP service.
There is a good chance that an average home printer, wireless or not, will lack some advanced security features available in corporate-class devices. For that reason, it is even more important to update its firmware on a regular basis, always having the latest available firmware installed. The same applies to any available drivers and other built-in and service software for your printer. Security experts believe that half of the successful malware attacks are done through vulnerabilities that are easily rectified by installing the most recent software updates and patches.
Adopt Additional Protective Measures
You can also adopt the use of an access control list (ACL) to protect communications and data transfer in your Wi-Fi network. This can prevent intrusions made through less sophisticated hacking tools and can be implemented along with the use of a syslog of allowed devices, protocols, etc. where all eventual hacking attempts are logged.
More advanced tools and methods to protect your wireless printer and Wi-Fi network are available, and you should definitely take your time to familiarize with such protective measures. The rapid growth of the Internet of Things connectedness already exposes millions of devices like connected cameras, home appliances, and cars as insecure and easy to hack. So don’t rely on manufacturers to protect your devices or network, instead adopt all the required measures to protect against possible hack ahead of time.