Is HP up to Its Same Old Firmware Tricks?

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Users of some third-party inkjet cartridges are once again seeing their HP inkjet printers display this error message.

Multiple reports indicate that a new HP inkjet printer firmware update is once again preventing certain aftermarket inkjet cartridges using third-party chipsets from working in HP printers. After the firmware update, users of certain non-OEM inkjet cartridges reportedly see their printers display the same error message that caused headaches for consumers and outrage among the media last year. The error message declares, “One or more cartridges appear to be damaged. Remove them and replace with new cartridges.”

As many will recall, one year ago, on September 13, 2016, a “dynamic security feature” installed in an HP inkjet printer firmware update from earlier in the year went live, causing certain third-party inkjet supplies to stop working in various OfficeJet, OfficeJet Pro, and OfficeJet Pro X inkjet devices (see “HP Inkjet Printer Firmware Update Disables Some Third-Party Inkjet Cartridges”). Affected HP printer models were those that used the HP 934/935, HP 950/951, and HP 970/971 cartridge families. There was an uproar in the media over the move (see “HP Firmware Update Continues to Spark Consumer Outrage, Aftermarket Solutions”). Ultimately, HP apologized and offered a firmware fix, although HP indicated that it would continue to use similar authentication technology to protect its intellectual property (see “HP Apologizes over Aftermarket-Cartridge-Killing Firmware Update, Will Offer Fix for Affected Customers”). Several class-action lawsuits were filed against HP over the firmware update. (For the latest in these class actions, which have been consolidated, see “Hearing Held on HP’s Motion to Dismiss Printer Firmware Class Action.”)

This week, Actionable Intelligence heard from aftermarket supplies firms in both the United States and Europe that HP had released another firmware update for inkjet models using the HP 934/935, HP 950/951, and HP 970/971 cartridges and that the firmware update included the dynamic security feature and once again prevented certain non-OEM cartridges using third-party chips from working. Technology news blog Ghacks.net reported on September 14 that HP released a firmware update on September 13, 2017, that “looks like an exact copy of the firmware update released a year ago (on the same day even).”

One big difference, however, is that this year there is an immediate fix, and it is the same one that HP eventually offered users last year. Ghacks.net says end users can go to the HP Customer Support website to download firmware that removes the dynamic security feature. The site advises that customers who wish to avoid such issues in the future block HP’s automatic update functionality or switch to another printer brand.

Tech websites are already once again criticizing HP over the move. Gizmodo posted an article titled, “One Year After Bricking Third-Party Ink With Update, HP Is Back on Its Bullshit.” In an article called, “HP Once Again Caught Sneaking Code into Printers to Reject Third-Party Ink,” Boing Boing declared, “HP has once again been caught pushing out a fake ‘security’ update for its printers that secretly turns on the anti-feature of checking for and rejecting third-party ink.” Tech Radar states, “This is the second time the company has been caught using these same tactics against its customers.” Most of these articles cite the Ghacks.net post as their source. We have been able to confirm, however, from Static Control Components and inkjet refillers and remanufacturers that HP did indeed push out a firmware update this week.

Actionable Intelligence reached out to HP for more information. The company provided us with the following statement:

Dynamic security is a process that authenticates supplies to prevent the use of supplies without an Original HP chip. HP includes dynamic security to: 1) protect the quality of our customer experience from potential functionality risks that can be introduced using cloned chips, 2) protect HP’s intellectual property, and 3) reduce counterfeiting of HP supplies and warranty fraud. HP printers and original HP cartridges deliver the best quality, security and reliability.  When cartridges are cloned or counterfeited, the customer is exposed to quality and potential security risks, compromising the printing experience.  Refilled or remanufactured supplies that use an Original HP Chip are unaffected by dynamic security and will continue to function normally. Other cartridges (e.g., cartridges using cloned chips) may not work today and/or may not work in the future.

This statement is not new and is the same statement HP provided us with when we asked the company about a firmware update for PageWide inkjets earlier this year (see “HP Updates Firmware for PageWide Devices: What Does It Mean?”). HP did not share more details about why it recently updated its printer firmware for OfficeJet, OfficeJet Pro, and OfficeJet Pro X devices.

Static Control tells us that HP did “push a firmware update of old firmware” this week. In a September 13 email technical bulletin to customers entitled “HP Ink Jet ‘Cartridge Problem’ Errors,” the component maker warned, “Some customers that had no issues yesterday make have woken up with ‘Cartridge Problem’ errors today. This affected printers that use the 934/950/970 cartridges.” Static Control advised its customers to update their printer firmware and that doing so would “restore full cartridge functionality to affected printers.” The company linked to HP’s Support site for the firmware download to fix this issue.

Among the questions we posed to HP that the company has yet to answer is why the firm issued another firmware update that locks out aftermarket cartridges on the same exact date one year after last year’s “dynamic security” feature went live? We noted the move seemed deliberate and asked what message once again pushing a third-party cartridge-killing firmware update on September 13 was meant to send to customers and HP’s competition in the aftermarket?

While we do not know if HP will choose to answer these specific questions, we must note that when HP Jon Flaxman, HP’s chief operating officer, issued HP’s official apology about last year’s firmware update, he stated, “We will continue to use security features to protect the quality of our customer experience, maintain the integrity of our printing systems, and protect our IP including authentication methods that may prevent some third-party supplies from working.”

In other words, nobody should be surprised here. HP has clearly stated that it will continue use firmware updates and the “security features” therein in ways that might prevent third-party supplies from working, and that is exactly what HP has done.

As for HP’s motivations, we think we saw the clearest expression of those in the firm’s motion to dismiss the consolidated class action brought against it over last year’s firmware update. In its motion to dismiss, HP stated, “[The] plaintiffs’ case is built on the false premise that HP is under an obligation to make its printers compatible with any and all third-party ink cartridges. In fact, HP is under no such inherent legal duty.”

[UPDATE (10/13/17): After the publication of this article, HP provided Actionable Intelligence with a statement on this matter. For more information, see “HP Shares Insight into What It Is—and Isn’t—Doing with Dynamic Security in Its Inkjet Printer Firmware.”]

 

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17 Comments

  1. Yesterday (09/15/2017) my HP 8620 printer started reporting damaged ink cartridges. All of them were genuine HP that I had purchased myself. The “failed” cartridges are those that had been refilled a few months ago. However, they had been working fine until the firmware “upgrade”. It seems that the new firmware can detect a refill as well as a non HP cartridge.

    • So glad I found this info. I was under the premise that I didn’t make any changes I was using all HP cartridges when all of a sudden my system stopped working so I said oh my gosh… Now I have to fix the printer! Well printer screen told me to replace my black ink cartridge because it was empty. I thought that was the problem. However I have two other cartridges that were refilled before. The printer kept informing me bad black cartridge however that it was a brand new ink cartridge and HP original! I am in the process of downloading the firmware for the HP site. Fingers crossed. Seems to be taking quite a long time….

  2. This firmware rollback won’t work for OfficeJet Pro 8600 N911g models, though that printer does seem to be affected by the recent firmware update that disables usage of cartridges that have been refilled.

  3. The September 2017 issue is much more pervasive than in the past. I own a OfficeJet Pro 8630 that is Web enabled. My configuration was set to not allow updates and to ignore non-HP print cartridges. I have successfully re-filled cartridges at Costco for multiple years. My configuration settings were established after the September 2016 debacle.
    The September 2017 firmware upgrade was performed on my printer without me taking any action and without my permission. My printer is rejecting all of my re-filled print cartridges despite the fact that my configuration file shows that updates are not to be performed and non-HP products are to be accepted. The new firmware is clearly ignoring the settings in the HP configuration file.
    HP has taken down it’s Support Website and the firmware to override the product checks is not available making my printer unusable. The computer I downloaded the firmware to last year has been retired and I do not have the override file available. Fortunately, the fix of removing the Costco chip and making sure the original HP chip is readable still works. The printer tells you that all your print cartridges are out of warranty and shows them as empty, but the printer continues to work.

  4. I have dozens of printers that were configured not to update or report to HP. This was a FORCED UPDATE with no warning. What is even worse than being hijacked is the fact that HP gives the consumer a FALSE ERROR CODE of saying missing or damaged cartridge.

  5. I am quite happy with HP and their nonsense. You can not believe the number of customers who tell me they are all done with HP products.We will be happy to help them get into Canon and Brother machines. Meanwhile the folks who need to keep using their machines will do so with refills using original HP chips.

    • nuclearheaven on

      Ted:
      You are right! I’m retired and have an HP Computer and Printer. I don’t want any more grief from HP. They don’t seem to understand us old guys will quit buying their stuff then THEY REALLY HAVE A PROBLEM!

  6. I have a photosmart 6510 and use generic ink and last spring I got the damaged message and my printer stopped working via computer. I can copy directly on the glass top and occasionally i can print a test print report but I can not print anything from my computer. I know HP did this. I am so livid that they think they have more rights then me. I PAID FOR IT, the printer belongs to ME not HP.

  7. Getting very old – the HP ‘search me’ game of BS, apologizes and denial.
    Perhaps we really are as dumb as they would like us. Perhaps dumber. The issues persist.
    Is their profit margin so narrow that they must design their machines with software to lock out other ink competitors? Or is it simply summed up with the word ‘greed’?
    A refilled HP original (from Costco) is no longer recognized – even after software upgrade.
    Note: today is Sunday, Nov 12 2017. “it’s nothing that money won’t fix”!

  8. I am sorry I am only now reading your ‘exposure’ about HP printers. I would not have bought another as I did some months ago.
    I got 7 color prints ( including the alignment page ) before I got the warning from HP that I should have another cartridge ready for a replacement. I am still shocked that only 7 prints were produced .
    I remember years ago I would get on average 20 – 8 x 10 color prints ( and I was told that was low by other HP printer owners ) Am I to believe that HP is now putting less ink in their cartridges to force us to buy more often ? Are they really up to their old tricks as you say?

  9. BROTHERS are STILL my Favorite with CHEAP ink available at Amazon and Ebay PLUS this will ALL be remedied soon, as CANON is NOW coming out with SUPERTANK Printers..
    Yes, you will be buying INK by the Bottles – put HP where it should be – IN the LANDFILLS, since the EPA is ALSO not DOING ANYTHING about the PROBLEMS Reported to THEM and HP..
    https://www.consumerreports.org/printers/supertank-printers-canon-megatank-epson-ecotank/

    and Get yourself an ASUS AMD Ryzen Laptop if your in the market for a laptop, all those 16 threads / desktop CPU, put INTEL in IT’s PLACE for once as well.. $1599
    Still have our ASUS from 7yrs ago and it STILL RUNS FINE.. (intel sandy bridge)

  10. Just got an 02 cartridge refill at COSTCO and as soon as I put it in the printer, HP Photosmart, D7100 series, it said cartridge was damaged or missing.

  11. Bruce Whiteside on

    I have an older HP C4580 AIO that uses 74/75 cartridges. I am also recently getting “incompatible cartridge” warnings. I will never buy HP printers ever again.

  12. HP Photosmart 6520, just refilled ink cartridges HP564, getting error screen, “One or more Cartridges appear to be missing or damaged. Install or replace the affected Cartridges.” HP software confirmed the printer has the latest firmware. I will check with the ink refill store to see if they know how to reset the ink cartridge chips … this may just be the end-game for this printer.

  13. I love my HP Deskjet printer, but hate the way HP deals with ink. I ran there maintenance pgm to clean the printer, and now black” won’t print but the colors do. This is not the first episode with HP and their pgms that decide when the cartridges are out of ink. I don’t want to deal with it anymore. BYE-BYE HP..

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