If Your Printer is Producing Spam Messages, Turn it Off

A new form of spam has appeared. Just what we need, right? More obnoxious intrusions into your personal privacy.

A Twitter user hacked over 50,000 printers last week to send out unwanted and unsolicited advertising. The same hacker is advertising that he or she will continue to do this as a “service” for advertisers willing to pay for it.

The messages take advantage of the “print over the Internet” functionality that is included with many modern printers. The hacker found a bug that allows sending to printers without first obtaining permission, a user name, or a password. The printed spam messages all originated from an I.P. address of 194.36.173.50, an address known for generating quite a lot of obnoxious spam traffic. “We have the ability to reach every single printer in the world,” claims a website launched on Sunday. “Reservations are limited.”

If you have spam blocking software installed in your computer, the software will be useless for this problem. The “print over the Internet” functionality doesn’t even use your computer at all. You could turn the computer off. As long as the printer is turned on, operational, and hooked to a network with access to the Internet, you are exposed to spam messages like this.

There are several solutions to this:

1. Turn your printer off and leave it off until you have something to print. That’s easy to do if the printer is directly connected to a computer, not shared with anyone else. However, if the printer is shared by multiple people using multiple computers on a network in a home or office, the other users may object.

2. Wait for the bug to be fixed and distributed. However, fixing software bugs in printers is unusual and not all printers have the capability to be updated. You might have to wait for a long time.

3. Simply never, ever do business with any organization that resorts to such a lowly form of advertising. Any organization that resorts to this form of advertising probably is a scam anyway. If spam prints out on your printer, simply throw the paper away. Once the advertisers realize that nobody is susceptible to their scams, they will go away. As with all other forms of spam, consumers hold the keys to the solution.

Nothing stops a scammer better than a lack of sales.

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