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How Secure Are Internet Connected Printers?
April 2, 2016
Earlier this week, The Recycler reported on news first brought online by Motherboard that a hacker had sent an anti-Semitic message to over 20,000 printers at colleges and universities with a relatively simple hack. Obviously this brings into question that what we and IT administrators would have thought were safe are still susceptible to hacks from people with enough skill and determination to perform this type of act.
While this is certainly not something that is even remotely good or okay, it highlighted for those responsible for printer security that efforts need to be stepped up. Overall the hack found that more than 14,000 printers across the United States were completely open to hackers. The open printers were discovered by using a search engine for internet-connected devices called Shodan. This hack is certainly not the only one in recent times, but yet another example that we are not quite there yet with completely un-hackable campus networks.
It is clear from this hack that perhaps for those affected, it is time to get some type of independent security analysis performed. It also may be a time to consider some type of MPS engagement from a provider with experience in securing printer networks. The article points to comments made by Shawn Merdinger, a security researcher in 2014 that suggested as many as 38,000 printers were vulnerable at that time. With regards to the newest incident, Merdinger remarked that "I’m only surprised this hasn’t happened sooner. Printer security is basically a joke [&8230;] and it’s the elephant on the network".
While there is still work to be done, and people need to exercise caution with the types of information they put online or print, every print job does not need to be second-guessed and students, faculty, and staff need not live in constant fear of hacking. We will continue to monitor stories like these and report as we are able.