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Printers are now the biggest security threat to corporate networks

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September 8, 2016

According to Bitdefender's Bogdan Botezatu, on any given day, the Internet of Things (IoT) is about as bad a security nightmare as pessimists think it is, really.

We've been following the persistent security issues of broadband routers for a while, but Botezatu asserts they've already been overtaken by the serious security vulnerabilities of the average printer in the corporate environment.

In the past, Botezatu has been horrified by routers acting as “smart home gateways”. For instance in 2015, he tested one such device and was pleased at its default security settings at the factory, but there was one issue-- “We get a lot of telemetry in our security vulnerability assessment labs,” he said.

“The router is no longer the worst device on the Internet. It's now the printer,” he asserted with some emphasis.

Many printers (without mentioning any names) offer public shares that are visible to the Internet because a lot of home users and small business owners leave their routers too close to default configurations which can make a bad situation worse.

There's an expectation gap between how ordinary people think of their internet devices and what happens in the real world when the IoT invades them, literally.

“We expect printer and similar appliances to have a relatively long life that's acceptable, but vendors won't support them with updates forever,” he said.

Once the world gets to the point where there's no dumb option for a refrigerator or washing machine, consumers will be in a squeeze, he added.

Either they'll be forced into buying a new refrigerator/washer/dryer or microwave because the software is end-of-life or they'll be stuck with a product that's vulnerable to attackers from the outside.

“There's always an attack surface if you will”, he said. “The Internet of Things overcomplicates things massively, and that's exactly what the average user needs to be warned off. And, it all starts by explaning the many security vulnerabilities,” he warned.

There are hundreds or probably thousands of IoT security vulnerabilities already, Botezatu strongly asserted. In a world where very simple social engineering spam still works to drop ransomware he said, layering of security is still the best defence-– signature detection, followed by heuristics, followed by behavioral analysis, etc, etc.

In conclusion, Botezatu is very concerned that it always seems to be luck (!) and in a world where a security vulnerability could be a vector to burning down a house or killing a person, that's just not good enough. That's simply not acceptable at any price. The industry needs to clean up itself and fast.

Source: Bitdefender Internet Security Inc.

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