Printers: Friendly office servants, or deadly ticking time bombs just waiting to explode? Computer security researchers have figured out a way hackers could possibly, maybe, program your computer to burst into flames from "half-way around the planet."
Now that we think about it, those printers always looked a little suspicious, just sitting there in the office closet all squat and square. Well, according to MSNBC, researchers at Columbia University have discovered flaws in millions of internet-enabled printers that could let criminal hackers remotely control them, "with the potential to steal personal information, attack otherwise secure networks and even cause physical damage."
In one demonstration of an attack based on the flaw, Stolfo and fellow researcher Ang Cui showed how a hijacked computer could be given instructions that would continuously heat up the printer's fuser – which is designed to dry the ink once it's applied to paper – eventually causing the paper to turn brown and smoke.
In that demonstration, a thermal switch shut the printer down – basically, causing it to self-destruct – before a fire started, but the researchers believe other printers might be used as fire starters, giving computer hackers a dangerous new tool that could allow simple computer code to wreak real-world havoc.
So, now hackers can remotely set our printers on fire, open prison cells, take over satellites, and order hundreds of dollars of internet porn that shows up on our credit card bill even though we ordered, at most, twenty dollars of internet porn.