How Your Printer Is Snitching on You

by Jack Warner 11 months ago in cybersecurity

Do you know that your printers may be selling you out?

How Your Printer Is Snitching on You

Printers are one of the most commonly used computer peripherals essential to every home and office. But, did you know that these devices are also designed to sell you out? Every piece of paper that comes out of your printer contains more information than you know, slipped in there for the sole purpose of tracking your documents back to you.

Printers log your every move.

The internal logging system was designed in such a way that it keeps track of all documents printed and scanned in chronological order.

Not only does the printer keep timestamps, but it also logs the IP. In some cases, the printer will even keep its own copy of that document you ran through it.

Inside every printer unit is a dedicated memory to enable this data logging and storage.

Before disposing of a printer, you should always ensure to wipe the cached and downloaded files that it might have logged in its dashboard. For better security, it would be in your best interests to schedule a regular wiping session for the hard disk, so it doesn’t get accessed by unauthorized personnel.

However, to cater to the average user who does not possess the technical know-how to configure these devices, most models on the market are preconfigured and highly rigid. The lack of customization flexibility means that it’s often impossible to wipe the hard disk clean at the end of its useful life. So, when you dispose of the machine, you’re inevitably giving away sensitive information stored in them.

A Tracker on Every Page

When you print your files, what you see is the output of the soft copy on paper. What you don’t see are the invisible identifiers that the printer has also embedded on that sheet of paper in the little time the entire operation took.

These identifiers will not be seen by the naked eye as they are in the form of tiny dots which are sprinkled around the page. When this paper falls into the hands of the authorities, they will be able to tell what type of printer you used, where you bought it from and ultimately have a better chance of finding you out.

Of course, you did not buy the printer to contribute to the rate at which you are monitored. It is even more disheartening that manufacturers won’t let their consumers know of this being in the setup.

As if that was not enough, wireless printers are even a deadlier threat to privacy and security

Advancement in printer technology has allowed for the cutback on cables and stress of setup by connecting printers over a Wi-Fi network. That gives room for the linking of multiple units in the home or office through a broadcasted Wi-Fi network from the said printer.

What you might not consider is that with such convenience comes a huge threat too.

Should an individual or body with malicious intent be interested in your data, all they would need to do is gain access to the same network you are on. By so doing, they will be able to intercept any data you send on that network and download it to themselves. If you think this is an exaggeration, read HP’s security warning of their devices. The company has also recently set up a bug bounty with a USD $10,000 reward to engage security expert, which goes to show how serious the problem is.

Now that you know that your printer has major security flaws, where possible, avoid printing sensitive documents, and don’t share them over Wi-Fi lest they get intercepted. Once you’re done with the document, shred it to pieces thoroughly.

But if you’re ever in doubt, just fall back on good old pen and paper. It never fails!

Read next: Wearable Technology: The Good, The Bad, The (Literally) Ugly