What is Spooling in Cyber Security?

Spooling attacks are increasing. According to a report by TechRepublic, there were more than 65,000 such hacks between July 2021 and April 2022, with nearly half occurring in the first quarter of 2022.

Spooling is as dangerous. Therefore, this post aims to answer two questions: what is spooling in cyber security? And, what can be done about it?

What is Spooling?

Spooling is a system that computers use to store items in memory awaiting execution. There are thousands of examples of peripherals that require spooling. However, some are more prone to attack than others.

Take print jobs, for instance. Microsoft introduced Windows Print Spooler many years ago as a way for printers to remember what they were printing as they printed. Unfortunately, it isn’t secure. Then and now, it is a high-value target for hackers who use it to gain system-level privileges on corporate networks.

Microsoft regularly updates its printer and peripheral spooling software with patches to prevent hacks. However, the attack surface is enormous, making it difficult to fully control. Bad actors continue to find hacks and exploits that grant them unauthorised access to company systems.

What is the Impact of Spooling?

The impact of a successful spooling attack can be tremendous. Thanks to shortcomings in the software (and the fact that it allows non-administrator users to take over peripheral functions), hackers have near-complete access to systems connected to a shared peripheral. Because of this, they can install malicious software, edit and delete data, transfer files to their own computers, and install malicious print drivers on other connected computers.

Is There Anything that You Can Do to Stop Spooling?

Fortunately, there are several strategies available to businesses to prevent spooling. Here are some strategies you can implement:

Manually Add Access-Denied Policies

Microsoft sets up Windows Print Spooler to be as convenient as possible for companies. The system allows any computer with print access to connect and print without authorisation by default. The intention is to keep office productivity high. But, unfortunately, policies like these mean that it is easy for bad actors to gain access to the print spooler and use it for nefarious purposes.

Because of this, administrators should implement denial policies that stop malicious actors from accessing the print spooler. They must do this manually since Microsoft does not implement it automatically.

Remove Malicious Files

Companies rarely detect malicious files installed by bad actors until an obvious breach or loss of data occurs. Therefore, they hardly ever get removed.

To remedy this, cybersecurity teams should regularly scour company networks looking for files that don’t belong. They should then delete them permanently using the digital security tools at their disposal.

Only Allow Access To Essential Servers

Lastly, security needs to ensure that unprivileged users only have access to essential servers. Print spoolers typically allow access to all users, regardless of where they connect from.


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