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Your computer is (probably) vulnerable to this bug – here’s what to do

Every version of Windows runs the Print Spooler service, so every version is vulnerable.

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Image: Microsoft

It’s a universal truth that IT experts hate anything to do with printers and here’s another good reason to add to the pile. A pretty gnarly Windows exploit called PrintNightmare lets hackers run malicious code from the Windows Print Spooler.

Microsoft knows about the vulnerability, and a fix for Windows 7 (yes, that supposedly out-of-service OS) has been issued, with patches for Windows Server 2016, Windows 10, version 1607, and Windows Server 2012 all expected “soon.” Once available, you should install the update asap so that the vulnerability is mitigated.

The rush to release a patch came partly because the researchers accidentally published the code to GitHub before the scheduled release. They intended to talk about the vulnerability at the annual Black Hat security conference later this month.

As to how big a deal this is? Every version of Windows runs the Print Spooler service, so every version is vulnerable. If an attacker used the PrintNightmare exploit on your computer, they could take over your whole PC, wiping your data or locking you out of your own PC. Yikes.

How to protect yourself from PrintNightmare

Thankfully, before Microsoft gets you a patch, there’s a fairly straightforward temporary fix – disable the Print Spooler Service

  1. Right-click on the Start Menu icon and type in PowerShell

  2. Right-click on that and then on Run as Administrator

  3. Type in Stop-Service -Name Spooler -Force and hit Enter
    (this stops the Print Spooler Service)

  4. Type in Set-Service -Name Spooler -StartupType Disabled to stop Windows running the Print Spooler Service again if you reboot the PC

You can leave the Print Spooler Service disabled until Microsoft releases the patch for your Windows version. Now you’re safe from PrintNightmare, and can breathe a sigh of relief.

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