Macs label HP printer drivers as malware, breaks printing for some

Drivers are pieces of software that some hardware or application use to communicate with an operating system. In other words, a functioning and authorized driver is critical in making sure things like printers, scanners, game controllers, and other peripherals work with a computer's OS. Sometimes, drivers stop working because of bugs, which leaves users with hardware they can't use until it's fixed. The case with Macs and HP printers, however, is rather unusual because the root cause may actually be some miscommunication and oversight.

Because of how they can tap deep into the operating system's functions, drivers are often required to undergo some form of security check or certification for them to work. On macOS, this is done using cryptographically signed certificates that tell macOS and its XProtect framework that this or that driver and this or that version of the driver is safe to run. As of the latest update to XProtect, however, HP's printer drivers are no longer certified.

This announced change has caused users no small amount of surprise and worry. Not only were they no longer able to print, they were also warned that the HP printer driver is malware that could be used to damage their Macs. Naturally, some may have feared an actual malware or a compromise on HP's side. The truth, as they say, is stranger than fiction.

Speaking to The Register, HP confirmed that it actually asked Apple to revoke the certificates of some older versions of its drivers. Neither HP nor Apple warned users and the action unsurprisingly caused printers to suddenly stop working altogether and receive an ominous warning. The drivers, however, may have actually still been completely secure anyway.

It's not the end of HP printing on macOS, though, as it seems to only affect macOS 10.15 Catalina and macOS 10.14 Mojave. HP also says it's working with Apple to restore these drivers but users who really need to print immediately can use AirPrint in the meantime.