Printer Privacy Is Dead

Every single time you turn on your printer to scan, print or copy a document, what you get is a replication of that information in the preferred form. What you also get, are trackers slipped into the document to tell on you.

This makes it easier to find you wherever you are in the world. At least, if someone who knows what they are doing gets a hold of such a document.

No – this is not a function of your boss spying on you. Even if you were in the comfort of your house and using that printer in the darkest part of the basement, you will still be liable to these trackers.

Government backdoor demands have been bearing down on printer manufacturers for years now. That is in addition to these manufacturers wanting to cut down the complexity of operations that would have been involved with a printer instead. These add up to mean one thing – a big compromise on the data privacy and security of these printers.

The unsettling fact is that not only can the document you printed to be used against you but even the printer itself. Logging all the activities you run on it since the first day of launch, it is the snoop you didn’t even know was watching your every move!

Wireless Printers Are Even Much Worse

In the bid to make things even easier and jump onto the many possibilities of the internet, wireless printers were borne. These make it possible to eliminate all the cables associated with traditional printing, opting to go with a broadcasted signal instead. You connect to the signal via your phone or computer and send the file you want to print to the machine. It’s all fun and games until a hacker gains access to that network and intercepts all the files you send. HP’s security warning of their devices issued just this year illustrates the severity of the threat and the attention it requires. To counter this, the company recently set up a bug bounty of US$10,000 to engage security expert. If you have a Wi-Fi printer that can also be cabled, plug it in now.

Printers Log Everything You Do. Every time!

Printers come with a memory box that does more than just function as CPU memory. This memory box is designed to capture data such as that of the document you ran through it and when you did.

It gets concerning when you know that there are some printers that will even capture the IP address from which it was used for that operation. More than posing a data security concern, the logging of physical addresses makes them an even bigger threat to personal security.

It is thus very important that you know how to get rid of this data should you plan to dispose of your printer lest it falls in the wrong hands. Otherwise, sensitive data can be pulled. Consequently, that would become a problem for you if it landed in the hands of the government or malicious individuals.

The ideal thing to do would be to wipe a printer’s hard disk at regular intervals. Bigger printers will have a bigger memory so you’ll want to make sure your big unit has not been logging you since the start of time. Should you have difficulty wiping the printer’s memory, refrain from running the sensitive information through the unit. This includes, but is not limited to, your financial statements, bitcoin private keys, trade secrets and so on.

Printers Put A Unique Mark on Every Document

Besides what can be saved on the printer’s dedicated memory or intercepted, there remains one other salient issue. On every page that goes through the printer are unique marks that are invisible to the naked eyes but traceable to your unit. These marks are in the form of tiny dots all around the paper. Initially installed at the request of the government to counter the rise of counterfeit money, this has now found more applications in tracing users beyond that.

When a printed document is flagged, the dots on it can be traced back to its serial number. That number can then be traced to the selling store from which the buyer can be caught on the basis of available footage. The most probable way to beat this system is by getting a used printer from a reputable used good store.

Bitcoin and Printers Don’t Go Together

If you’ve got bitcoin, today might be as good as any other day to throw your printer away. Your printer could have malware installed on it with the primary aim of searching out wallet information and private keys you print, storing them and sending such information to unauthorized personnel.

Worse still, your bitcoin data could get intercepted over a wireless network when you try to print it.

Pen and Paper Is Always Secure

If you must keep any information safe on paper, using your pen is a really good way to go. After all, you’re sure no one has programmed such a paper or pen to send back your data to them. You will have to make sure no one is looking over your shoulder though – either in person or through surveillance.

It might sound ancient to use pen and paper at this point but then, when has good security been defined by the bounds of time?