HP CEO justifies blocking third-party ink cartridges by claiming they can inject malware

HP has a range of smart tank printers for easy refillable options over cartridge variants.
(Image credit: HP India)

Even with a case filed against the company for blocking third-party inks using its Dynamic Security updates a few days ago, HP is adamant about doing what it can to maintain a monopoly in its refillable ink cartridges for its printers. While this isn't a new practice from HP, it continues to push forward with consumer-unfriendly tactics, from bricking printers to the latest: claiming that third-party ink cartridges can be used to infect users' PCs with viruses.

In an interview with CNBC, HP Inc. CEO Enrique Lores said, "We have seen that you can embed viruses in the cartridges. Through the cartridge, the virus can go to the printer, and then from the printer, go to the network."

HP's evidence of this claim uses research funded by the company in 2022. The study emphasizes that HP's cartridges typically use a chip to communicate with the printer and hence they are secured. The research claims that the cartridges sold by third parties also use reprogrammable chips, and hence could contain malicious software.

Many security experts have claimed otherwise, and this makes sense, since HP already claimed in its study that its chips are secure, implying that there is a mechanism that verifies the chip's authenticity, just like any other hardware that requires authentication with other devices. But of course, making consumers fear the possibility of infection from third-party cartridges, whether justified or not, will also almost certainly dissuade some of HP's customers from buying ink that doesn't come directly from HP.

From a business perspective, these moves shouldn't be surprising. The company would prefer to have a subscription model for its printer inks, as Lores states in the same interview with CNBC. The company's Dynamic Security, which made its debut in 2016, has been part of many class action lawsuits and anti-trust cases in and out of the United States, and in Europe, the company settled for $1.3 million in a case revolving around the feature. Despite that, many strongly believe HP is continuing work to ensure customers cannot use third-party ink by any means necessary.

It should be noted that this reasoning stems from the question put forward by the CNBC reporter, stating that many users are angry that they were not made aware when using a new firmware that some of their printer's functions would be disabled if they use third-party inks. Before this, the company CEO said that it was doing so to protect its IP. The company also said that every time a customer buys its printers, it's an investment for the company.

The Fine Print with Catridge Ink

Issues with printer inks have been a long-standing issue internationally. But HP seems to making several attempts and goes out of its way to ensure its customers cannot use third-party inks on printers they have purchased. Luckily consumers have many options out there, some even providing ink tanks. For those who feel they are being exploited by any manufacturer, one can simply shift to another brand, though it comes with a certain monetary loss. Irrespective of one's ability to switch over, one's bad experience with a company usually spills over to another range of products.

Knowing that there is no true monopoly in the printing and computing business, one would concur that HP is risking its brand's reputation and credibility while relentlessly pursuing such lengths to restrict its existing customer's choices.

Freelance News Writer
  • Eximo
    For anyone that prints regularly, why inkjet? Color laser printers are cheap enough now, and certainly pay for themselves with moderate use.

    The low price of inkjet printers is literally to entice you to buy them, not properly accounting for ink prices. It is a whole product concept that needs to go away.
    Reply
  • Murissokah
    Come on, enforcing monopoly through software lock is bad enough, now the need to insult the customers intelligence?
    Reply
  • peachpuff
    Murissokah said:
    Come on, enforcing monopoly through software lock is bad enough, now the need to insult the customers intelligence?
    Clearly he must be shorting hp stock, no one can be that dumb, right?
    Reply
  • g-unit1111
    I've used 3rd party ink cartridges. It's not malware you should be afraid of, it's the poor build quality. I had a printer damaged by one and I was still finding spilled toner in the machine even after we discontinued use of it.
    Reply
  • vanadiel007
    Just don't purchase HP printers and problem solved. There are many other printer manufacturers who make good quality printers.
    Reply
  • bigdragon
    I want to see the 3D printer manufacturers produce a few 2D printer models. My 3D printer is easy to troubleshoot, repair, and refill -- no need for proprietary crap. My Epson printer is comparatively unreliable and locked down. Right now it's not functioning because it wrongly thinks its waste ink tank is full and that it's printed the maximum number of pages its lifespan allows!

    Nobody should buy HP printers. DRM is just another problem in a long list of faults. The last HP printer I owned was an unreliable piece of crap that self-destructed after the warranty expired. The thing would put lines in everything it printed no matter what ink cartridges used. HP printers have been nonstop problems for friends and family too. Epson and Canon ink tank printers have nearly eliminated the dreaded "help, my printer won't print" calls.
    Reply
  • Sleepy_Hollowed
    These are the same people that won't let you use their software without registering it first.

    HP products are a non-starter, and if someone else does the same thing, treat them accordingly.

    As an aside, you can just use electronic documents, don't do printers to yourself unless you have no other option.
    Reply
  • Sippincider
    Eximo said:
    For anyone that prints regularly, why inkjet? .

    Printing rarely is almost worse; the jets will be dry or plugged and that one job will cost a new cartridge!
    Reply
  • das_stig
    You can see from HP CEO's that once they have opened their mouths, their brains disengage and their foot is implanted in their mouths or <Mod Edit> depending on which pocket their wallet is securely sealed up in.
    Reply
  • punkncat
    Sleepy_Hollowed said:
    These are the same people that won't let you use their software without registering it first.

    HP products are a non-starter, and if someone else does the same thing, treat them accordingly.

    As an aside, you can just use electronic documents, don't do printers to yourself unless you have no other option.

    I have a person in our office who is absolutely stuck on printing everything. Stacks of duplicate copies in folders that will never be looked at, but "just in case". We print everything to pdf and store in the cloud. Zero need for it at all almost 99% of the time. There is a very rare occasion that we might need to print and snail mail a bill for a customer similarly left living in the 90's. The biggest use case for our all in one is the scanner.



    We have been using what is now an obsolete Brother model that is the same across our physical office and all the work from home folks. We use aftermarket ink and drums which are very cost effective. The brand we found seems to be refurbished 'official' product, so they work correctly (some don't) and the only real negative seems to be the monitoring program always alerting that the drum needs to be replaced. It is pretty obvious when it actually does. We will keep using them till they don't suit the purpose.
    Reply