Northeast Publishing, the Presque Isle-based media company managing the Star-Herald and other weekly newspapers, was among 150,000 sites around the world that experienced a hack on one of its printers.
Anita Adams, Northeast Publishing’s human resources manager, first noticed something was amiss Friday morning, Feb. 3, when an office printer delivered a paper full of random “nonsense” words and a picture of a robot comprised of keyboard characters.
“I just kind of let it go,” Adams said.
“Then we got one in the afternoon, and I was like, ‘Okay, now it’s a little odd,’” Adams said.
“YOUR PRINTER HAS BEEN OWNED,” the print said, among other things.
The trail of the cyber-hacking traces back to a high schooler in the United Kingdom who goes by the online name “Stackoverflowin.”
In an interview with the technology publication Bleeping Computer, the hacker said his intentions were benign — unlike some other recent print hacks that sent documents with anti-Semitic sentiments to printers at a number of universities, including the University of Maine last year.
Instead, “Stackoverflowin” said he wanted “to raise everyone’s awareness toward the dangers of leaving printers exposed online without a firewall or other security settings enabled.”
His hacking activities caught some 150,000 other printers around the world with port networks open to external connections. It appears the hacker targeted the printers at random.
For Northeast Publishing, a division of Bangor Publishing, the incident was something of a wakeup call and prompted the addition of a new security feature known as a firewall to the office printers, said Andrew Birden, general manager of Northeast Publishing.
“I’m just glad that this intrusion into our system was relatively benign. It’s amazing that such a simple effort could have such far-reaching impact,” Birden said.
“It’s easy to think that the printer is sitting there, and it just does its thing. But it’s not just sitting in the corner, it’s sitting everywhere on the planet. Anybody that has the IP address and the know how can reach into these things,” he said.