Cybersecurity Experts Sound Alarm for 3D Printing

Posted Date 08/29/17

Just when 3D printing is really starting to take off with big names such as Mercedes Benz and GE adopting it in their manufacturing activities, it seems one thing can trip it: cybersecurity. A recent paper from researchers from Rutgers University warns that the lack of sufficient verification procedures could compromise the main advantages of the technology, such as customization and low price.


In their paper, Saman Aliari Zonouz and Mehdi Javanmard describe a hypothetical scenario where a manufacturer decides to outsource the production of a certain item to a 3D printing service company. Unbeknownst to either the client or the service provider, hackers could change the design file so that the printed item contains a flaw that may not be immediately visible but could have serious consequences.


The authors point out that when a technology is used for the production of things like prosthetics and component parts for aircraft, the issue of cybersecurity becomes particularly pressing. Hackers could potentially access the design files and the computers operating the 3D printers and change a product’s specifications, parameters, and even the printing materials compromising its quality.


Verification of the finished product is more important, however, according to the authors. The printer itself can be hacked and the printed item changed in a way that could lead to devastating consequences, they warn. As a solution to these problems, Zonouz and Javanmard suggest three verification procedures: acoustic, spatial, and materials.


The acoustic verification consists in applying audio classification technology to check if a 3D printed item matches the characteristics of a previously printed one with proven accuracy of properties and specifications.


Spatial verifications is also called gyroscopic replication and involves a visualization of the 3D printing process in real time with data for frequency analysis focusing on the position of the nozzle at every stage of the printing process.


Materials verification, or spectroscopic verification, deals with checking whether the correct materials were used in the print job and whether the markers inserted during the print job to authenticate the item are in place and in the correct place.


In summary, researchers are making an effort to ensure the cybersecurity of 3D printing but like in other industries, the chances of cyberattacks occurring is only likely to strengthen despite these efforts.



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