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How safe are internet connected devices?

With increasing amounts of electronic devices becoming “smart” or internet aware, many people are concerned about the security of these devices if connected to your business or home networks. Increasingly the media is full of reports of “hacking” and manipulating devices to collect personnel data and to exploit security flaws and coding errors.

For example a recent BBC news reports that a “Canon printer was hacked to run Doom video game” (other printer brands are also available for hacking). Yes that’s right a run of the mill Canon Pixma printer was “hacked” or compromised to the point that it could be reprogrammed over the internet to run the iconic 1993 video game on its colour display. Believe it or not the game was playable. It took the security researcher four months in his spare time once he discovered the security breach in Canon’s web interface for the printers. The flaw – no username and password needed to access the web interface. It meant he could access the printer’s operating system the same way a software/firmware update would, and he could reverse engineer the source code and then reprogram the printer as a gaming device.

This proves a couple of things – the processing power and ability of your humble and insignificant £50 printer, and the ability for this device to be compromised by a simple overlooked security flaw.

Would you as the owner of your shiny new printer been aware of such capabilities? Well realistically not, and to be fair Canon have stated they will provide a fix, and the researcher did have to know how to reverse engineer the source code, and was looking to find flaws, but nevertheless proved it was possible.

So what are the risks? Any device connected to the internet and your network, particularly with an interface which can be accessed from anywhere in the world, presents a credible risk.

What can you do? – Simple things really. Don’t ignore completing the setup of any smart devices – don’t skip the internet setup – even if it’s just to switch functions on/off. Add any required usernames, passwords, security keys, and make sure you secure the direct Wi-Fi printing functions for example, as leaving any of these un-configured all present risks to a device being compromised. Check for, and if the devise prompts you for software/firmware updates, then do run them. Oh and don’t be surprised one day if your printer turns into a games console.

…..mmmmm – wonder if my printer would let me play Pac-Man while waiting for this to print!


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