May 24, 2017 | By Benedict

A group of researchers at NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering has found a way to prevent 3D printing hacks and cyber theft. By deliberately embedding flaws in CAD files, the researchers say they can combat intellectual property theft.

For most of us, the prospect of having our personal CAD files stolen seems a remote possibility. But with 3D printing use growing by the day, intellectual property in the form of 3D models is becoming more and more precious—lose it, and your company’s unique 3D printable product could become worthless.

That’s why a group of researchers from New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering has developed an unusual security procedure that looks to put power back into the hands of the model makers and out of the hands of hackers. The researchers say that, by embedding intentional defects into CAD files, they can effectively safeguard against the effects of IP theft—not by preventing the theft itself, but by thwarting the hackers’ ability to use the 3D files they have obtained.

“Cybersecurity has become a major concern for cloud-based resources,” the researchers say. “While network security is important and is the responsibility of the information technology departments of corporations, a second line of defense is necessary if the cybersecurity is breached and the computer aided design (CAD) files are stolen.”

The secret is in developing a system, a precise set of parameters and printing conditions, that can automatically identify and reverse these defects. Those who own the IP would have access to this system of parameters, but any potential hackers would not. This means that, if a hacker attempted to 3D print the stolen file, their model would have serious physical flaws or an unnaturally low resolution.

The study, which has been published in Materials and Design, was carried out by materials researcher Nikhil Gupta, an associate professor of mechanical engineering, and students Fei Chen and Gary Mac. Together, the group outline exactly how these intentional defects can be applied to 3D models, as well as how they can be sidestepped.

“The range of security feature designs demonstrated in this work can provide great flexibility to application engineers in terms of how to disguise these flaws easily in a complex shaped part,” said Chen. “Most industrial components manufactured using 3D printing have complex designs to justify the use of 3D printing, which further helps in embedding these features without detection.”

The “flaws” that Chen and the others have been adding to CAD files include both 2D and 3D shapes hidden inside parts, designed to weaken the structure or render the item functionless. In one example, a hollow sphere has been added to the inside of a cube-shaped part. This sphere is removed when the part is printed with the secret parameters, which are only available to the owner.

The researchers’ work goes back beyond this latest paper. Last year, Gupta and another NYU group published a paper in JOM, The Journal of The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society, in which they showed how defects added to 3D printable models can be small enough to evade detection, even by advanced imaging applications.

But while the researchers are confident that their research could go a long way in the battle against cyber theft, they say that their unusual security measure should be used as well as (rather than instead of) regular security measures such as encryption and password protection. The additional advantage of the new method is that files remain somewhat protected even after they have been stolen.

“Cybersecurity tools can be applied as usual to make the files and cloud secure,” Gupta explained. “However, in case the design files are stolen, there is nothing in the designs to deter printing a high-quality component. The new approach is designed to provide an advantage in this scenario and to make printing high-quality parts from stolen files difficult.”

So there you have it: next time you accidentally ruin your 3D model with a critical flaw, remember to keep the dud file to hand. It could someday save your business.



Posted in 3D Printing Technology



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James Angel wrote at 5/25/2017 7:40:55 PM:

This is just like how map makers would put town that didn't actually exist on their maps so they could tell if someone had copied them.

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