Cyber security and the power of print

Malcolm Latarche
Malcolm Latarche

10 February 2017


Keeping abreast of the potential weaknesses in modern communications and reliance on IT can be a nightmare. As shipping increasingly becomes a connected industry thanks to increasing broadband satellite services, so cyber security has become a buzzword and a bandwagon for service providers and consultants alike. Most crew on ships are aware that improper use of devices such as memory sticks and cards and phishing emails with malevolent links can provide a way for bugs and malware to infect a ship or shore network but there are other ways as well. Recently ShipInsight reported on an incident in Germany where some routers became infected. This weekend an even bigger potential headache was widely reported. Although reported to be not a sinister attack but an illustration of vulnerability, an unidentified hacker going by the name of Stackoverflowin, managed to hack 150,000 printers at a global level. According to reports of the event, the hacker has found that Internet-connected printers are usually functioning without any firewall protection. This is the main reason why almost any hacker can exploit them, said the hacker. To prove his point, Stackoverflowin used an automated script and scanned the web for identifying printing devices containing open port 9100, Internet Printing Protocol (IPP) and Line Printer Daemon (LPD). Once he was successful in finding such devices, he immediately issued a command to the devices for carrying out rogue printing jobs. It is worth noting that the automated script was written by Stackoverflowin as well. The hacker also issued warning messages to the users of targeted printers. Some of the messages notified the recipient that the printer has been “Owned” and that the device has now become a part of the “flaming botnet.” The users were asked in one of the messages to close the port. Incidents such as these may seem comical and as long as they are harmless could even be useful in identifying system weaknesses but they must also be worrying in that ships crews and shore staff are becoming ever more reliant on a technology that seems to have far too many flaws.