Canon printer hacked to show security issues with “internet of things”

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shutterstock_164702252A wireless Canon Pixma printer has been hacked to run retro video game Doom. The hack was carried out by security researcher Michael Jordon, and it took four months to get the game running on the hardware.

He said he had undertaken the project to demonstrate the security problems surrounding devices that would form the “internet of things”. Canon said it planned to fix the loopholes on future printers to make them harder to subvert.

Like many modern printers, Canon’s Pixma range can be accessed via the net, so owners can check the device’s status. However, Mr Jordon, who works for Context Information Security, found Canon had done a poor job of securing this method of interrogating the device.

“The web interface has no user name or password on it,” he said.

That meant anyone could look at the status of any device once they found it, he said. A check via the Shodan search engine suggests there are thousands of potentially vulnerable Pixma printers already discoverable online. There is no evidence that anyone is attacking printers via the route Mr Jordon found.

At first glance, the remote access feature did not look like a problem, until Mr Jordon realised it was possible to update the printer’s controlling software, known as firmware, via the interface too.

Although the firmware was encrypted, research revealed it was possible to crack this protection system to reveal the core computer code. Reverse engineering the encryption system used by Canon also meant that if Mr Jordon wrote his own firmware the printer should accept it as authentic.

It was then Mr Jordon conceived the idea of getting the 1993 game running on the printer.

“Running Doom, that’s real proof you control the thing,” he told the BBC.

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