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3D printing offers hackers fresh opportunities

October 26, 2017

Alessandro Di Fiore (Copyright: Harvard Business Review)

With 3D printing set to become rife in our increasingly technological society, there are fears that it could offer a wealth of new and troubling hacking opportunities.

A new article by HBR reveals the worrying security threats that could go hand in hand with the mainstream adoption of 3D printing.

Alessandro Di Fiore writes, “For the last decade, the 3D printing sector has been dominated by closed systems” but these “limit innovation”, so the industry has been making progress toward using more open systems, with the likes of global OEM, HP, adopting this approach.

However, along with the benefits of using an open system, there come risks, and Di Fiore cites the “most glaring one” as being cybersecurity. A virus that has been introduced into an open system can wreak havoc and “spread faster through multiple parties and flows of information”.

Up until now, the damage hackers have been able to unleash has been in the virtual realm but with 3D printing, the repercussions will become physical, because “3D objects have both a digital and a physical representation”. This makes the risks “commensurately greater”.

Di Fiore explains, “A corrupt file can result in product failures, which can lead to injuries, litigation, or product recalls.”

He cites a recent New York University study in which “tiny errors inducted by hackers” couldn’t be detected using the usual verification systems and monitoring procedures, a worrying discovery.

He warns, “The cybersecurity risk to 3D printing’s future is significant. Candidates to become the future platform leaders need to act as guarantors of the quality and integrity of files and data and ensure proper certification and monitoring, up to the physical object verification.”

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