Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Vulnerabilities / Threats

How 'Postcript' Exploits Networked Printers

At Black Hat 2017, a university researcher will demo how attackers can drill into networked printers by way of the ubiquitous PostScript programming language.

Network printer exploits are like old dogs learning new tricks, according to a security researcher with Ruhr University.

In his upcoming Black Hat presentation, Exploiting Network Printers, Jens Muller, Ruhr University chair for network and data security will delve into an analysis of printer attacks, in which he discovered 20 printer models were all vulnerable to at least one of the same attacks that he tested. Muller will also disclose unusual ways the Internet is enabling network printer attacks via advanced cross-site printing techniques.

The vulnerability, Muller says, stems from the 35-year-old PostScript programming language, which has connected printers to end-users for decades, even as technology evolved from the parallel printer cable, to the USB stick, to networked printers, and today to the cloud.

"Before, printers used parallel cables and having PostScript wasn't a problem." Muller says. "But now, the printer manufacturers are still using PostScript and they can easily be exploited remotely."

PostScript: An Industry Standard 

The PostScript programming language is an industry standard for network printers and its use is ubiquitous. But despite attackers ability to exploit this language, printer manufacturers have largely looked the other way, he says. Instead, manufacturers put the onus on network administrators to place the printers inside the network, where the devices are presumed to be protected from outside threats.

Even today, he notes, manufacturers do not seem to realize that attackers can drill into networked printers by way of the Internet.

On the networking side, network administrators tend to view their connected printers as nothing more than a printing device, as opposed to a potential vector of attack, he says, noting that the end result is that network admins may not think it's important to secure network printers.

Some of the attacks Muller has tested include a denial of service attack that damaged eight of the 20 printers he was testing. One new issue to emerge is the ability to set a printer back to its factory defaults by taking control of the printer remotely. Other printer attacks range from stealing print jobs containing sensitive information to pilfering system files.

Work Arounds

One potential solution to the problem, Muller says, is to corral all the connected printers and put them on a separate network with a print server. The downside: it would require a network administrator to oversee two networks, which, he says, could be difficult for midsized companies and result in the additional costs of installing and monitoring a second firewall.

"What CISOs should really do is ask themselves do they really need a device connected," Muller says. "It may make sense not to connect the printer to the cloud."

Related Content:

Dawn Kawamoto is an Associate Editor for Dark Reading, where she covers cybersecurity news and trends. She is an award-winning journalist who has written and edited technology, management, leadership, career, finance, and innovation stories for such publications as CNET's ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
I 'Hacked' My Accounts Using My Mobile Number: Here's What I Learned
Nicole Sette, Director in the Cyber Risk practice of Kroll, a division of Duff & Phelps,  11/19/2019
6 Top Nontechnical Degrees for Cybersecurity
Curtis Franklin Jr., Senior Editor at Dark Reading,  11/21/2019
Anatomy of a BEC Scam
Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor at Dark Reading,  11/21/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
Navigating the Deluge of Security Data
In this Tech Digest, Dark Reading shares the experiences of some top security practitioners as they navigate volumes of security data. We examine some examples of how enterprises can cull this data to find the clues they need.
Flash Poll
Rethinking Enterprise Data Defense
Rethinking Enterprise Data Defense
Frustrated with recurring intrusions and breaches, cybersecurity professionals are questioning some of the industrys conventional wisdom. Heres a look at what theyre thinking about.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-3654
PUBLISHED: 2019-11-22
Authentication Bypass vulnerability in the Microsoft Windows client in McAfee Client Proxy (MCP) prior to 3.0.0 allows local user to bypass scanning of web traffic and gain access to blocked sites for a short period of time via generating an authorization key on the client which should only be gener...
CVE-2014-2214
PUBLISHED: 2019-11-22
Multiple cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerabilities in POSH (aka Posh portal or Portaneo) 3.0 through 3.2.1 allow remote attackers to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via the (1) error parameter to /includes/plugins/mobile/scripts/login.php or (2) id parameter to portal/openrssarticle.php
CVE-2014-6310
PUBLISHED: 2019-11-22
Buffer overflow in CHICKEN 4.9.0 and 4.9.0.1 may allow remote attackers to execute arbitrary code via the 'select' function.
CVE-2014-6311
PUBLISHED: 2019-11-22
generate_doygen.pl in ace before 6.2.7+dfsg-2 creates predictable file names in the /tmp directory which allows attackers to gain elevated privileges.
CVE-2019-16763
PUBLISHED: 2019-11-22
In Pannellum from 2.5.0 through 2.5.4 URLs were not sanitized for data URIs (or vbscript:), allowing for potential XSS attacks. Such an attack would require a user to click on a hot spot to execute and would require an attacker-provided configuration. The most plausible potential attack would be if ...