SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – Researchers at Columbia University have found that hackers may have a brand new target in the homes of computer users: your printer.

CNET Editor at Large Brian Cooley said that researchers found that the printers can be remotely controlled by criminals over the Internet.

CNET Editor at Large Brian Cooley:

“Hackers can get into them either through your computer or directly through the printer, because those are increasingly connected to the Internet,” said Cooley. “And they can tell it to do crazy things like heat up its fusing element in a laser printer until it nearly catches fire or to take a print job and email it out to a hacker’s email address.”

The report found that researchers have found flaws in some Hewlett-Packard LaserJet printers, although the company said they are reviewing the vulnerabilities and can’t confirm or deny the research.

Cooley said part of the problem is that it is almost impossible to protect your printer from an attack.

“Think about all the anti-virus software that you probably run on your computer. They don’t sell that for printers,” he said. “Printers aren’t built that way. They lack a lot of that interactivity for security and they’re kind of dumb devices.”

Cooley said the “inconvenient truth” is that all you can do is make sure your printer is powered down to avoid an attack by hackers.

You can hear Brian Cooley’s Tech Watch report Tuesdays and Thursdays at 1:50 P.M. on KCBS All News 740AM and 106.9FM.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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