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Windows Print Spooler Vulnerability and Print Safety

Windows print spooler vulnerability PrintNightmare

Print safety precautions can be life-or-death for your infrastructure’s security. With modern cloud software, solution providers are constantly monitoring their software infrastructure, conducting vulnerability scanning on a never-ending loop. The importance of vulnerability remediation for print system security cannot be overstated.

Microsoft notified its users of the Windows Print Spooler vulnerability back in June 2021. Since then, concerns about major security breaches have been plaguing system administrators.

The zero-day vulnerability reportedly gives remote access to attackers to execute codes that could grant them system-level privileges. This included installing new software, creating new accounts with admin access, modifying or stealing system data, and much more. It was terrifying.

According to Microsoft, “A remote code execution vulnerability exists when the Windows Print Spooler service improperly performs privileged file operations. An attacker who successfully exploited this vulnerability could run arbitrary code with system privileges. An attacker could then install programs; view, change, or delete data; or create new accounts with full user rights”, July 1, 2021.

Microsoft quickly released a Patch Tuesday fix, but it did not securely resolve the PrintNightmare threat. Those patches were only effective under stipulated conditions. Until the patch issue is resolved,
 PrintNightmare continues to be a major headache for IT security leads.

But is there any easy print management solution to counter the threat? Let’s find out.


Why Is PrintNightmare Such a Dangerous Security Risk?

It’s widely acknowledged that zero-day flaws in the Windows Print Spooler service have been around for years. But the PrintNightmare bug came to light after security researchers published a Proof of Concept (PoC) exploit on Github.

PrintNightmare remains an unpatched threat. Attackers can easily exploit the PoC published by researchers who thought it had already been fixed. This presents a potent combination that’s been causing sleepless nights for system administrators.

To add to that, Microsoft is uncertain whether the vulnerability can be exploited beyond server versions. The Print Spooler service runs by default on Windows. The PrintNightmare vulnerability can affect any PC that operates on any version of Windows.

The June Patch update did not completely fix the PrintNightmare vulnerability. The only way to ensure safety is to either disable the Print Spooler service or disable ‘client connections´.

Neither option is very helpful — both restrict users’ ability to print. Microsoft released an update that changes the Point and Print default to prevent users without admin access to update printers. Despite everything, the code execution vulnerability exists as of this article, too.

The only hope lies in the fact that an attacker must be an authenticated user to execute these codes remotely.


PrintNightmare Isn’t the Worst Windows Vulnerability

There’s no doubt that PrintNightmare is a critical security vulnerability since it performs privileged file operations, compromises your network, and allows attackers access to confidential data.

However, PrintNightmare isn’t the worst security threat Microsoft Windows faces. For attackers to access servers, they must be an authorized user. It could be a lot worse—like what happened with zero-day vulnerabilities in Microsoft Exchange. A barrage of servers (think thousands) was attacked in that crisis.


Printers Have Always Been a Soft Target for Hackers

Printers are a prime target for hackers. Way before PrintNightmare haunted IT leads, attackers used printer-cum-fax machines to invade home computers in 2018. Not just that—the Stuxnet virus exploited the Windows Print Spooler security vulnerability about a decade ago.

Multiple zero-day vulnerabilities were discovered, including CVE-2020-1337, CVE-2020-1070, CVE-2020-1048, CVE-2019-0683, and CVE-2010-2729 (Microsoft). These attacked and destroyed several nuclear centrifuges in Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility.

Unfortunately, networked printers continue to be the most vulnerable to security threats. Printers are overlooked when it comes to cybersecurity, so it's no wonder that these have emerged to be a hacker’s dream conduit.

The problem is, now everyone has to think twice before printing. Yet, “has to” is a strong way to put it. The reality is, that eliminating servers is possible and so is terminating PrintNightmare and other spooler errors—permanently. The solution? Secure cloud technology.


Risk-Mitigated Printing in the Cloud

Despite everything we’ve discussed, print jobs don’t need to be such a headache. 

If you’re a system administrator, wouldn’t you love to alleviate all Windows Print Spooler concerns? Many organizations are turning to cloud computing to counter cybersecurity threats like PrintNightmare.

Adam Bishop, CMO at Y Soft, says, “There are many reasons why organizations are fast-tracking cloud-first strategies and migrating legacy on-premises print infrastructure to an easy-to-use cloud printing solution that eliminates print servers”. One such reason is the improved security you can expect from a cloud print solution.

Why wait for Microsoft to issue a patch? Turn to cloud printing platforms that let you print without thinking twice. Here are a few of the ways cloud printing ups the game on print security:

  1. Zero-trust network architecture
  2. End-to-end encryption of data
  3. Combined on-prem and cloud authentication
  4. Pull printing (Print Roaming)
  5. Compliance with cloud protection guidelines
  6. Access management (least privilege access)
  7. Vulnerability scanning and PEN-testing

Y Soft’s SAFEQ Cloud allows you to streamline your print infrastructure, eliminate print servers, and secure your printers. No more worrying about Microsoft’s security updates. No added headache about zero-day threats no more. You and your IT team get more time on your hands to address bigger concerns. You don’t have to bother with print servers and the security threats they face. We’ve got you covered.


FAQs on Windows Vulnerabilities

Q1) Which Print Application Security Vulnerabilities are Dangerous?

Numerous vulnerabilities have affected print applications. Windows print spooler PrintNightmare, Log4j, Log4shell, zero-day, the Stuxnet virus, and other vulnerabilities have resulted in compromised hardware, data loss, hacking, and more. You also have to beware of Denial of Service (DoS) threats, document theft, and network breaches.


Q2) What Caused the PrintNightmare Vulnerability? 

The PrintNightmare Windows print spooler vulnerability was caused by a RpcAddPrinterDriverEx function which was implemented in the Windows Print Spooler service. This function allowed authenticated users to deploy an arbitrary DLL file or Windows executables on systems where the Windows Print Spooler service ran and executed the code inside the arbitrary DLLs with administrative (SYSTEM) privileges.

Adversaries could then exploit this vulnerability.


Final Points

The world of vulnerabilities, malicious code inside arbitrary files, and data theft is scary and dark. That said, businesses can find solace in cloud-native solutions. If you need another solution to replace Windows Point and Print, Y Soft’s SAFEQ Cloud is here for you.

By eliminating the need for servers (and even anything hardware except the printer itself with pure cloud terminals), you’re minimizing the threat surface of your IT systems. While the cloud isn’t an immediate threat-free sanctuary in itself, solution providers like Y Soft are working proactively with security mechanisms and enhancements to users wrapped in a secure infrastructure blanket.

You can rest assured that Y Soft prioritizes security. SAFEQ Cloud’s security features everything from the basics to full end-to-end encryption right through to zero trust networks. We release new enhancements to our software every month. And don’t worry—security is always accounted for.

Need more insights into how SAFEQ Cloud provides unparalleled opportunities to mitigate risk? Check out this two-pager:


SAFEQ Cloud Scurity two-pager