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Can hackers really set fire to your printer? HP say ‘no’

A story was published yesterday on MSNBC.com which suggested that hackers could compromise a printer and give it instructions so that it could overheat and potentially catch fire. This was picked up by many news related publications and they debated the possibility it was true.

The story was actually based on interviews with Salvatore Stolfo, of the Computer Science Department of Columbia University’s School of Engineering and Applied Science and a team of researchers who spent months looking into the ‘hackability’ of Hewlett Packard printers. They were funded by security grants to undertake the analysis.

Stolfo spoke to MSNBC and said “The research on this is crystal clear, The impact of this is very large. These devices are completely open and available to be exploited.”

HP admit some LaserJet printers have a security vulnerability, but they can't catch fire due to 'thermal breaker'.

It read “The flaw involves firmware that runs so-called “embedded systems” such as computer printers, which increasingly are packed with functions that make them operate more like full-fledged computers. They also are commonly connected to the Internet.”

Hewlett Packard thought the piece was important enough to get involved directly and they issued a long statement on the subject. They refuted the claims saying “Speculation regarding potential for devices to catch fire due to a firmware change is false.”

They do admit that there is a possibility of a security vulnerability with some of their LaserJet range of printers but they say that no customer has ever reported them being breached or ‘hacked’.

In regards to the overheating concerns Hewlett Packard are quick to dismiss the comments yesterday “HP LaserJet printers have a hardware element called a ‘thermal breaker’ that is designed to prevent the fuser from overheating causing a fire. It cannot be overcome by a firmware change or this proposed vulnerability.”

Kitguru says: If you own a Laserjet then rest assured, you should be ok, even if it is hacked.

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  • I’ve been searching for a printer that would fit my picky needs for about a year now. I’ve bought and returned about 3 mid-line printers. The 6510 looked good, but I decided to go with the 7510 instead. Since I haven’t bought a printer since 2005, I had no idea what I was missing as far as features go. And the packaging is awesome. No more plastic wrapping, it came packaged in a re-usable tote bag – going green and all.
    I LOVE that I can print from my iPhone, and the ePrint feature is cool too. My printer now has it’s own email address and it actually worked when I emailed to it. Fabulous. I haven’t used the eFax yet, but I hear it works well.
    The touchscreen is nice and the apps are cool…not exactly totally necessary but it’s funny to know that my printer can get me coupons in my area. EASY and fast setup for PC and Mac!
    One thing I was hung up on was print quality. And I wasn’t disappointed. It prints very good quality photos, the best I’ve seen since my last HP photo printer that I refused to throw away. Nothing beats a photo lab for important photos, but with the good HP paper provided.The cons:
    I’m giving it 4 stars because there is no USB port, only an SD and micro SD port. This isn’t good for me since I like to alter my photos and getting them BACK onto an SD is nearly impossible without an adapter (which I have to buy). Also, I can’t seem to be able to print 4×6 photos from the computer. The 4×6 photos paper will feed through the photo tray with an SD card but not through the comp. It only feeds from the main feeder when printing through there.
    I’ll just get an adapter because it’s a small price to pay.