Hacking Your Dumb Smart Devices and Printers

February 8th, 2018 by admin

An infinite number of hackers, hacking an infinite number of printers, will eventually, accidentally print the complete works of Shakespeare. Why and how they ever hacked a printer in the first place, is the subject of the day. There are all kinds of devices that you use every day that you might not realize are hack-able. As the Internet of Things expands and all kinds of new gadgets connect to the internet, the issue of hacked smart devices has started to grow. Generally speaking, if your device connects to the internet, it is hack-able. Printers, scanners, Rumbas, refrigerators, TVs and more can all be taken advantage of by nerds who have gone to the dark side. We review some of the concepts of hacking that make this possible, discuss what dangers users of these devices might face, and offer tips toward securing your smart devices. Hacking smart devices seems a little counter-intuitive to most people, but just because we call them "smart" devices doesn't mean they are actually smart. Most smart devices are actually sort of dumb. Smart refrigerators don’t have anywhere near the functionality of a smartphone or PC, Smart TVs and speakers are a similar story, and most printers can only do what they are told to do by another computer. Because of this limited functionality, people think these devices are unlikely to be hacked. Equating functionality with hack-ability has some logic to it, but it isn’t always a reliable way to think. The three features that exist in each of these devices, as well as your PC, is a processor/brain, an internet connection, and some kind of data memory (whether that’s hard drive or RAM). In other words, they are all computers, and are all potentially capable of having their functionality expanded. That means they can be hacked, and there is potential reason to do so!   In February of last year a hacker who goes by "Stackoverflowin" hacked over 150,000 printers and had them print a warning message informing their owners that their printers were hack-able. Fortunately he didn’t seem to be too occupied with stealing anything, but he easily could have. Hacking is essentially unauthorized access of data or computational resources. With printers and smart devices, there are two things hackers are potentially interested in. First is data, printers have records of items they have printed, and smart devices have usage data that might be of interest, any of this data can potentially be viewed by hackers. Second is computational resources, hackers can trick your printer, or smart device into thinking part of its job is to do whatever the hacker tells it to. Hacked devices can be assimilated into a Botnet where the hacker can tell them all to perform some function, like contact a certain IP all at once causing system overload (DDOS attack), printing documents the printer owners didn’t ask for, or potentially spying on a wide network of users.   It’s hard to quantify the frequency or severity of smart device hacking today, but it is almost certainly going to get worse before it gets better. Smart devices are expected to become more common, and more popular, and hackers are already trying to take advantage of people who don’t have their devices secured. If you have smart devices or printers, it’s not just those devices that are at risk, but potentially all of the devices on your network. That means you might be more vulnerable to identity theft or banking fraud if you are using these devices, and don’t secure your network perimeter. Here is a guide to help you do just that.   Now you know a bit more about printer and smart device hacking and now you can avoid assimilation and stop your Rumba from going rogue. Make sure to send us any questions you have about smart device hacking/security.     -Kender Ostlund

Posted in: Protection, Security, Tech Tips, Technology


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