This Startup Can Steal Data by Hacking Your Printer

hacking your printer

With just a few tweaks, even your printer can be hacked to broadcast your personal, private data.

Washing machines, air conditioners, and nearly any other modern device is able to, with a few software tweaks, emit inaudible broadcast signals for miles: without needing the Internet.

Red Balloon Security, co-founded by Ang Cui and Salvatore Stolfo, focuses on projects that explore data security and has developed several different programs for hacking as well as preventing it.

The team provided an example recently by infecting a printer and toying with its circuits in such a way that it began emitting radio signals, CNN Money reports. These signals are computer code, information being transmitted from the computer in a way that firewalls and network monitors cannot detect.

Although this method may be slow, but thick cables in massive server rooms provide a sort of amplifier that boost the signal making the hack effective for pulling even larger amounts of data. Worse yet, it’s nearly impossible to detect; unless you’re armed with an AM radio and know what you’re looking for.

This means someone could be stealing information right from under your nose, from your office printer.

This hacking method is mostly aimed at large servers with huge amounts of data. That doesn’t mean you should discard your worries, though.

While cyber crime and hacking have become bigger concerns for small business owners, a report from McAfee reveals that nearly 90 percent of small and medium sized businesses lack customer and company data protection.

Thus small businesses have become increasingly vulnerable targets of cybercrime. Hackers often attack looking for customer data like credit card numbers and bank account info. Social media and smart phones have become hazards as well, with malware specifically aimed at gathering your information through your mobile devices.

Thanks to the developments and research done by Red Balloon Security, however, large and small businesses alike are more aware of some of the dangers to their data lurking even in printer or other seemingly harmless device.

Image: Red Balloon Security


Aubrielle Billig Aubrielle Billig is a Staff Writer for Small Business Trends. She covers business as it is impacted by pop culture, entrepreneurs in the arts, and other topics affecting creative businesses. She has a background as an illustrator and her design page can be found at AubrielleBillustrations.

3 Reactions
  1. This shows that you really cannot be safe anymore. Anything can be hacked to have access to your personal data and it can be used against you.

  2. I saw this story and was blown away. First, it’s scary that this can be done, but secondly, it’s amazing how creative this was. I mean who thinks of this kind of stuff? Obviously they couldn’t get away with a lot of data, but it’s very thought-provoking.

  3. Martin Lindeskog

    This is scary stuff! How could you block the printer ports in a safe way?