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Wireless connection is common because you can connect to a device at a far distance. One of the wireless devices used today is the Bluetooth printer. The Bluetooth technology allows your computer, camera, and mobile phones to connect with the printer without the cords. But the question is, are Bluetooth printers safe?
Bluetooth printers are safe. As technology continues to improve, manufacturers include extra features that combat any malicious attack. Yet, as a user, you need to observe safety precautions. It ensures that hackers won’t get any information from your device.
In this post, you’ll learn the technical part of Bluetooth printers, their safety, and the new features added to the new printer models.
Table of Contents
Bluetooth printers connect with other electronic devices. It sends data to devices through radio signals. It’s a type of wireless personal area network (WPAN) that can connect to multiple devices. It can connect with a distance from 10 meters to 100 meters away. It operates across different devices that have the same wireless technology at a speed of 3 Mbps.
It’s a powerful technology because it can extend beyond walls. So, even if you’re in a different room, a Bluetooth-enabled device can transmit data.
This technology allows multiple computers to connect to one printer. It’s a perfect office-based setup because it’s convenient and cost-effective.
Devices with Bluetooth technology can communicate with other devices at a low band signal of 2.4 GHz. It uses a spread spectrum modulation signal in low power.
The signal uses 79 different channels with a rate of up to 1600 hops per second. Because of the frequency-hopping ability of Bluetooth, it doesn’t interfere with other signals in the same spectrum.
So, you don’t experience interference on your Wi-Fi radio, which has the same band signal as Bluetooth.
The low-band signal doesn’t interfere with other Bluetooth devices as well. Even you’re in one room with other users with Bluetooth on, you won’t experience any interference during the transfer of data.
There are different classifications of the technology based on their transmit power levels. The Class 1 device operates up to 100 mW. Class 2 has a lower transmit power level that operates up to 2.5 mW. Lastly, Class 3 operates the lowest, which is up to 1 mW.
The technology uses a master device and slave devices. This is an asymmetric communication model where the master controls the slave devices.
Currently, most Bluetooth devices use the piconet as their ad hoc network. A piconet consists of one master device and seven slave devices. So, there’s a total of eight devices in a piconet.
Another ad hoc computer network also exists called scatternet. It’s more powerful than a piconet because it connects two or more piconets at the same time.
So, you can connect more than eight devices in one instance. However, the implementation of this ad hoc network is still limited due to the protocols implemented in Bluetooth.
A Bluetooth printer can connect from a mobile device with Bluetooth technology. So, you don’t need to transfer your files to a computer before you can print. You can print your files and photos directly from the mobile device.
On the other hand, you can buy printers with a Pictbridge USB port. This added feature of a Bluetooth printer allows your camera or PDA to connect directly to the printer using a USB port. If most of your projects require the printing of photos, this type of printer is for you.
If you’re planning to install a Bluetooth printer at home in your office, you must consider the distance of the devices. You can place your printer up to 30 feet away from other devices for successful printing.
Yet, you need more power if you plan to place it 30 feet away. The distance may vary as well depending on the device’s hardware configuration. So, you need to test it first before you decide the final location of the printer.
A Bluetooth printer hacking is not possible as long as it’s not discoverable. If you enable the visibility feature then you’ll have a problem. The Bluetooth technology is secure as long as you follow the security tips.
However, it’s not the case for printers in a workplace setup. For convenience, users turn on the Bluetooth printers all the time.
So, the users who want to print a document can directly manipulate the printing process inside their room. They don’t need to turn on the Bluetooth printer just to print something.
Although it’s convenient for the users, it’s risky. There’s a service for the repository of internet-connected devices. It’s available online and offered on a subscription plan. One of the most famous websites offering this service is Shodan. According to its homepage, it’s the world’s first search engine for Internet-connected devices.
One of Shodan’s offers is the exploration of the Internet of Things. This offer allows you to discover different devices connected to the Internet. It also gives information about the location of the devices and who is using them.
Unfortunately, a hacker used this website to hack computer printers. In November 2018, 50,000 printers printed PewDiePie’s campaign materials without the owner’s knowledge.
According to The Verge, the campaign sheet printed a message telling everyone to help PewDiePie to stay number one as the most subscribed channel on YouTube.
The message told the people that PewdiePie’s channel is losing its position against another YouTube channel. The channel is T-Series, which is an Indian company.
A statement from the hacker, TheHackerGiraffe, telling The Verge that it took the hacker no more than 30 minutes to do the hacking process. The hacker used PRET to access the file system of printers to manipulate the print jobs.
That’s a bit scary, isn’t it?
So, how can you secure your Bluetooth computer? Let’s park that question as I’ll discuss it later. For now, learn if the Bluetooth printer gets a virus.
A Bluetooth printer without internal storage will never get a virus. The viruses and malware can’t attack a system that has no built-in memory. If you own this type of printer, you don’t need to worry about any malicious attacks.
On the other hand, a printer with internal storage can is prone to viruses. It’s also possible for external storage devices to have the same problem. The printer must have an anti-virus so it’s protected from any potential threat.
Another possibility that a printer gets a virus is during the firmware upgrade. You need to ensure that you have a signed firmware. Any compromise in the signing material can lead to a virus infection.
When the firmware is not properly signed, a malicious upgrade can happen. A malicious upgrade means that the firmware has an inbuilt virus. When the printer gets compromised, it can transfer the virus to devices connected to the network.
As a printer user, you must ensure that you update your printer’s firmware. Old firmware may not send you a notification so you must regularly check the updates manually.
Anyone can print on your Bluetooth printer if you open its visibility and you disable the passkey. If you’re sharing one printer at your home or your office, you can set up the printer where everyone can access it. But if you set it up with passkey, pairing, or no visibility, then no one can print on your printer.
So, how do you set up a printer so anyone can use it?
Printers don’t have a standard installation procedure. It depends on the manufacturer and the computer you’re connecting it. In this case, you need to refer to the printer’s manual.
If you don’t have a manual, you can check it online. Manufacturers upload their devices’ manual. To avoid problems, always get your online manual directly from the website of the manufacturer.
I parked this question earlier and now it’s the right time to discuss it with you. There are different practices that you must follow to avoid Bluetooth printer hack.
The first one is turning off the Bluetooth printer when not in use. Each time your turning on the Bluetooth, hackers near your area can discover it.
If you’re living in a detached house with no neighbors within 30 feet, your device is safe even it’s turned on. However, if you’re living in an apartment that’s a problem. Remember, Bluetooth signals can pass through walls.
It’s the same case in an office setup. If your office is in one big building, most likely, everyone with Bluetooth on can see your device.
Another practice that you must follow is putting your Bluetooth in hidden mode. It hides your printer from other devices preventing the unwanted connection from an unknown device.
Take time to think about your password so you won’t forget it. When creating it, ensure that it has numbers and special characters. Avoid using passwords that anyone can guess such as the name of family members and birthdays. If possible, change your password periodically to maintain the privacy of the device.
You can enable encryption for a higher level of security. You can do this process at the application level. On the Bluetooth settings, you turn on the encryption. This method requires you a passkey that you need to enter on your device. Successful encryption allows your device to communicate with the printer. Then, you can start printing the documents.
Bluetooth printers are safe to use as long as you follow the practices for their security. Fortunately, new models of printers today have embedded security features that protect your printer from any attack.
One of the security features that new printers have is self-healing. This feature allows your device to detect any problems within the software without the help of a human. If you buy this kind of printer, even your IT personnel doesn’t report from work, your printer can fight against the attack from a malicious device.
A self-healing printer helps in detecting BIOS attacks. It can also stop and recover on its own. This kind of printer can check the authenticity of the firmware the device has digitally signed.
So, when the printer experience an intrusion, the device reboots offline. When it happens, you’ll get a notification about the problem.
New printers have a Run-time Intrusion Detection, which protects your printer when it’s turned on. It can detect intrusions from malicious malware keeping your printer secure.
Bluetooth printers are safe to use. Because of its wireless feature, you can connect it to several devices. It means that you don’t need to buy many printers at home or in your office. With the risk factors that Bluetooth technology encounters, upgrading your printer helps to avoid viruses and hacking. If you don’t have a printer at home or you plan to buy a new one, buy a printer with a self-healing feature.