Hackers Can Turn Laser Printers Into Bombs


Columbia researcher Ang Cui explains how he was able to infect an HP printer with malicious code. Image: Columbia University

There's a ticking time bomb in your office. No, really - researchers from Columbia University discovered that flaws in laser printers can let malcious hackers hijack them, and turn them into a copy machine for criminals or even a fire starter:

Printer security flaws have long been theorized, but the Columbia researchers say they've discovered the first-ever doorway into millions of printers worldwide. 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.

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.

Link - via Engadget


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>> just read a bit on Stuxnet and you might start to think otherwise

Yes, I have read about that. I'm not saying cyber warfare is not real. (Although I don't think they are targeting our printers.) I'm not saying they should not plug that security hole or any security hole that crops up in the software we use daily.

But Windows fixes one security hole or another EVERY WEEK. They don't issue terrorist warnings about those every time do they? It might be somewhat surprising that even a printer can be messed with through software or a virus, but that's about it. Other than that, there's nothing to see here.
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@hmmm...: just read a bit on Stuxnet and you might start to think otherwise.

(For all those TL;DR kind of people: a virus was used to damage Iranian uranium refining centrifuges. I guess it was the American government. The real danger now is that the virus is available and can be modified to be used somewhere else.)
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1) What a load of trumped up scaremongering. Pretty much every electronic device can malfunction and cause damage. Cell phone or laptop batteries have been known to overheat and even explode, how's that for dangerous? (Oh and the title says "bomb" but the article says "burn paper". Make up your mind.)

2) Are we now supposed to be afraid that terrorists will cause our printers to malfunction? Seriously? Is this an article from The Onion?

3) Botnet and malware distributors are not interested in causing damage to the host they infect, let alone our printers.
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