Does Your Work From Home Printer Need Security Software?

System admins had a busy month pushing out the latest Microsoft Windows patches for the PrintNightmare exploit. Meanwhile, HP advertised their new HP Wolf Security for work from home printers. That raises an interesting question. Does your home printer need security software against cyberattacks?

PrintNightmare Exploit

The PrintNightmare exploit allows cyber attackers to use the Windows Print Spooler service on a PC to access the corporate network. Experts published and then deleted a proof-of-concept on GitHub at the end of June. The Internet republished the proof-of-concept far and wide.

Microsoft issued emergency patches for Windows 7, 8, 10, and 11, and Windows Server 2008 and 2012.

A common enterprise practice is to delay the Windows patches for two weeks. System admins would test the new patches before deploying them to PCs. This time they had a week to test and deploy the new patches. That meant getting users to leave their PCs on 24/7 to receive the patches. Not all the PCs took the new patches or were online to download them.

HP Advertising HP Wolf Security

While PrintNightmare kept system admins busy, HP advertised their new HP Wolf Security on YouTube. I thought it was too much of a coincidence that the ads were running now. To be fair to HP, the product announcement took place in May. Weeks before PrintNightmare became an ongoing concern.

The HP Wolf Security ad called, “The World’s Most Secure Printers,” was the one I saw the most that struck me as wrong in different ways. I’m going to walk through this ad, add context where needed, and explain what I think was wrong.

“The World’s Most Secure Printers” Ad

The ad opens with the factoid that cyberattacks are up 400% since the pandemic began.

We meet Alice from HR. She’s professionally dressed for the webcam. She’s wearing pajama bottoms and bunny slippers under the table She has a wireless headset and a wireless laptop, and a generic all-in-one printer in the background.

A man in a bath robe holding a “#1 Mom” coffee mug represents the malware that wants to infect the corporate network. Let’s call him Malware Guy.

One of the cons of working from home was the printer being vulnerable to cyberattacks.

If Alice had an HP printer with HP Wolf Security, it wouldn’t be vulnerable to cyberattacks. She feeds paper documents into the printer to scan and email as PDF file into the corporate network. The printer is where the malware waits to attach itself to the outgoing email. When coworkers open the email, the malware spreads throughout the corporate network.

What Is Wrong About Ad

Most people who work from home are connected to the corporate network through a Virtual Private Network. A typical VPN setup won’t allow access to the local network. That means the printer in the background is inaccessible to the laptop.

Malware Guy is explaining that Alice needed an HP printer with HP Wolf Security to defend against cyberattacks. Keep in mind that the ad is called, “The World’s Most Secure Printers.” We will come back to this later.

Alice is scanning and emailing paper documents on the home printer. If you’re working from home during the pandemic, where are the paper documents coming from?

The ad shows the corporate network as being defenseless against cyberattacks via email from a trusted coworker. That’s unrealistic. Most enterprise email servers will have an anti-malware scanner to detect and delete compromised file attachments on arrival.

What Wolf Security Is Really About

The impression I got from the ad was that HP home office printers will have built-in security software. I then read what HP Wolf Security was all about. It has nothing to do with home office printers. It has everything to do with the corporate network.

If a company is an HP shop, it will have HP laptops, HP printers, HP servers, and HP workstations. The HP Wolf Security software will tie the entire enterprise together. I hope that would include an anti-malware scanner for the email servers.

Does your home printer need security software? No.

There are a few simple steps to protect your printer and local network. If your printer has a web interface, change the default password to a stronger password. If your printer connects wirelessly to your home network, make sure that your wireless network has a strong password.

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