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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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