The notorious hacker and troll Andrew Auernheimer, also known as “Weev,” just proved that the Internet of Things can be abused to spread hateful propaganda. On Thursday, Auernheimer used two lines of code to scan the entire internet for insecure printers and made them automatically spill out a racist and anti-semitic flyer.
Hours later, several people started reporting the incident on social media, and eventually a few local news outlets picked up on the story when colleges and universities all over the United States found that their network printers were spilling out Auernheimer’s flyer.
Auernheimer detailed this “brief experiment,” as he called it, in a blog post on Friday. Later, in a chat, he said that he made over 20,000 printers put out the flyer, and defended his actions.
“I did not hack any printers,” he told me in a online chat. “I sent them messages, because they were configured to receive messages from the public.”
The hacker explained that all he did was create a script that would scan the whole internet to find printers that had port 9100, a common port used by network printers, open. Then, the script made them print the flyer.
“It’s a big internet, I didn’t have to ‘discover’ the printers were vulnerable, I knew there were going to be a whole lot of them on the internet,” he added. “That’s like an obvious fact, of any device, if you search for it somewhere on the internet you’re going to find it. There were less than I expected there to be really. Still a lot though!”
This incident shows, once again, that the apparently bright future of the so-called Internet of Things has a dark side too: hackers can creep out babies taking advantage of insecure baby monitors, expose kids’ identities thanks to internet-connected toysthat collect and leave their data exposed online, or send a hateful white supremacist flyer all over the country with two lines of code.
Auernheimer himself said this “experiment” is “a lesson in how positively hilarious the [Internet of Things] will be in the future.”
Despite that, Auernheimer, who was convicted of hacking crimes in 2012, told me that he’s not worried.
“Nah, this is a pretty righteous case to fight,” he said. “I committed no crime.”