Windows 10/11 Print Spooler security problems

Cannon Pixma TR4550 MFP printer
Cannon Pixma TR4550 MFP printer

No matter how hard a business tries to print to PDF files that are sent by email, it still needs to  print to desktop and network printers. Therefore, printing problems, such as those that the Windows Print Spooler causes, are bound to affect productivity.

Updates to Windows seem to screw up printers disproportionately. Therefore, after a big update, the first action I take is to find out if my printer is still working properly.

This state of affairs with printer problems that updates cause dates back to the 2010 Stuxnet attacks that made use of a print-spooler vulnerability to sabotage centrifuges at an Iranian uranium-enrichment facility.

The Print Spooler service is always enabled by default in Windows

The Windows Print Spooler service, always enabled by default, dates back more than 20 years to Windows NT.  The complex technology is a favourite target of hackers who use it to gain system-level privileges and the ability to install malware,  initiate it from a remote location and modify data. On critical systems, such as domain controller and Active Directory systems, Print Spooler exploits, such as PrintNightmare, allow hackers to create new administration accounts that in turn allow them to access any other systems on a network.

The Print Spooler service provides system privileges on a Windows computer – the highest levels of rights on a Windows system. So, if a hacker gains access to the Print Spooler, he has access rights to the local system on the computer. Thereafter, he can take additional control of the system and then do likewise with other computers on a network.

Print Spooler is relatively ancient code

Apparently, the Print Spooler is relatively ancient code that is full of potential security holes, making it difficult to patch.  Interacting as it does with the remote procedure processes gives it the characteristics that hackers seek in order to gain remote access to a system and its network. Some of the experts in the know are suggesting that Microsoft should rewrite the code from the bottom up. Unfortunately, that did not happen, so it looks as if the Print Spooler is still going to need patching in Windows 11.

Disable Windows print spooler or you could be hacked, says Microsoft [July 2021]
This is the third serious Windows print flaw in just five weeks –

https://www.techspot.com/news/90459-disable-windows-print-spooler-or-you-could-hacked.html

Printer device drivers are also a source of security vulnerabilities

Note well that not all printer vulnerabilities derive from the operating system (Windows, OS X, Linux, etc.).  The device drivers that the printer manufacturer provides can have exploitable vulnerabilities. An example:  in July 2021, Malwarebytes reported that printer drivers were a source of the exploitation of persistent security vulnerabilities.

An exploitable printer driver is loaded at system boot-up, therefore the printer need not be connected to the system for an exploit to take place. For that reason. you need to make sure that the printer’s device driver is up to date. You can download the latest driver for your make/model of printer from the support section of its manufacture’s website. Such as from the Support section of hp.com if you have an HP printer. Moreover, you should check for driver updates from time to time and install any updates. Updates often address bugs and security problems as well as provide new apps.

Printing to a PDF file can also be insecure

Adobe provides popular PDF-creating software and its free Acrobat PDF reader. The list of its patched security vulnerabilities say that writing a PDF document via a print-to-PDF driver is no more secure than printing to a physical printer.

Disable Print Spooler if you don’t use a printer

Since the Print Spooler can be a source of security exploits whether it is in use or not by a printer, you should disable  its service.

The following instructions to disable the Print Spooler service that uses the System Configuration tool (msconfig) should work in Windows 10 and Windows 11.

Press the “Windows key + R” shortcut. (The Windows key are the two keys on the bottom row with a window on it.)
Type “msconfig” in the Run box and click OK.
Go to the Services tab and scroll down to Print Spooler.
Uncheck the Print Spooler checkbox.
Click the OK button.
Restart the computer.

If some programs start the Print Spooler, the following webpage provides alternative methods that shut the service down completely.

https://windowsloop.om/how-to-disable-print-spooler-service-in-windows-10-11/

Printer troubleshooters

HP provides its Print and Scan Doctor tool. The other major printer manufacturers also provide such tools. To find them, visit the Support page on their websites. I have no idea how good they are because I have never had to use any of them due to fixing printer problems using other methods.

Windows 10/11 have a built-in printer troubleshooter that you can run. To do that just type “printer” in the Search box and click on the “Find and fix problems with printing” link. In my experience, it seldom fixes troublesome printer problems.

How to Fix Printer-Spooler Error in Windows 11/10 (10 Ways) –

https://www.minitool.com/news/printer-spooler-error-windows-11-10.html

About Eric Legge 269 Articles
I am an experienced PC technician who has been the owner and sole writer of the PC Buyer Beware! website since 2004. I am learning all the time in this very dynamic, ever-changing field.