Scanners Can Be Hijacked to Perpetrate Cyberattacks

Scanners Can Be Hijacked to Perpetrate Cyberattacks

Published By: Ben-Gurion University, 3/28/2017

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Researchers from Ben-Gurion University demonstrated the ability to communicate with and potentially activate malware on a computer by directing pulsing lights to a typical office scanner that was left open on the same network. These exploits exemplify how seemingly secure devices could be a potential security threat to other networked machines.

Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level of Article: 11.7

Extended Discussion Questions

  • Can you think of some ways the attacks discussed in the article could be mitigated? (Prompt: They rely on light. How does that affect when they can be used?)
  • In what kind of situation do you think this specific type of attack would be likely to occur?
    • Do you think this is something every place with a scanner (for example, your school) needs to worry about?
  • How should this research be taken into account when it comes to developing communications technology that relies on light? (For example, the potential new Wi-Fi standard that uses light rays, thought to only be a handful of years away from the market?)
  • Beyond this specific attack, what other devices could a cyberattacker use to compromise a network or disrupt a system?
    • What devices can be remote-controlled in some way? (Surprising example: Pacemakers!)
    • What kinds of everyday devices are commonly connected to networks?
    • What kinds of devices might be commonly connected to networks in five years?
    • How likely do you think it is that those devices could be the targets of cyberattacks? Why?
  • What important systems are attached to networks, that could affect many people if they are compromised? (Examples to start with: Power plants, transportation grids…)
  • Given all the types of devices and networks we’ve talked about, is cybersecurity just computer scientists’ problem? Who else needs to understand it?

Relating This Story to the CSP Curriculum Framework

Global Impact Learning Objectives:

  • LO 7.2.1 Explain how computing has impacted innovations in other fields.
  • LO 7.3.1 Analyze the beneficial and harmful effects of computing.

Global Impact Essential Knowledge:

  • EK 7.3.1G Privacy and security concerns arise in the development and use of computational systems and artifacts.

Other CSP Big Ideas:

  • Idea 6 The Internet

Banner Image:Network Visualization – Violet – Offset Crop“, derivative work by ICSI. New license: CC BY-SA 4.0. Based on “Social Network Analysis Visualization” by Martin Grandjean. Original license: CC BY-SA 3.0.

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