Many organizations in the US that rely on networked printers got a rude awakening last week when white supremacist troll and hacker Andrew “Weev” Auernheimer sent out an enormous batch print job to every unsecured network printer in North America. Among those who found their printer trays full of racist fliers covered in swastikas and other white supremacist propaganda were a number of universities and other educational establishments.
The motive behind this attack was simple, Auernheimer admitted to The Security Ledger that his actions served as a demonstration to other white supremacists the insecurity of Internet of Things devices and how easy it is for someone to carry out such an attack. He made use of the Masscan TCP port scanning tool in order to discover the printers, which all exposed port 9100 and then sent a batch print job to all of them with just five lines of code. Auernheimer admitted that he had not deliberately targeted universities, instead simply sending the print job indiscriminately to the huge amount of unsecured printers connected to the internet in the US.
This isn’t the first time Auernheimer has been responsible for a cyber attack, playing a role in the 2010 hack of AT&T which saw the email addresses of 114,000 owners of Apple iPads exposed. He was convicted of felony charges under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act in 2012 and spent a year in prison before the verdict was overturned. It is unlikely that he will be prosecuted for this attack as he did nothing to gain access to the printers that would be classed as unauthorized access and simply exploited their already open states to send a print job.
Maybe this attack will be an eye-opener for those IT departments that turn a blind eye to security for the sake of ease of use and convenience. In this case, it was simply offensive printouts, but a more criminally-minded individual could easily see these unsecured devices as a way to gain unauthorized access to a network or steal data sent to the printers.