Aug 16, 2017 | By Tess

As hacking becomes an increasingly significant threat in our digital lives, it is not just our passwords and financial information we have to protect, but also our 3D files.

Hackers have demonstrated that it is entirely possible for people to hack into and alter 3D files as they are being printed, even making undetectable changes that can impact the internal structure and mechanical properties of a part.

Fortunately, not all computer geniuses are out to get us, and many are working on innovative ways to combat 3D printing cyberattacks.

Researchers from the Rutgers University-New Brunswick and the Georgia Institute of Technology, for instance, have devised three methods for fighting 3D printing hacks, which were written about in a study titled “See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Feel No Evil, Print No Evil? Malicious Fill Pattern Detection in Additive Manufacturing.”

The study was recently published at the 26th USENIX Security Symposium held in Vancouver, Canada, an important event for the security community which showcases the latest in computer and network systems protection.

"Imagine outsourcing the manufacturing of an object to a 3D printing facility and you have no access to their printers and no way of verifying whether small defects, invisible to the naked eye, have been inserted into your object: the results could be devastating and you would have no way of tracing where the problem came from,” explained Mehdi Javanmard, a co-author on the study and an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.

In other words, the risks for hacking in 3D printing come largely from the reality that most companies use external 3D printing facilities and services to additively manufacture their goods. In most cases—and especially in the fields of healthcare, aerospace, and infrastructure—having qualified and specifically structured parts is crucial, so the risk of having a part compromised is serious.

The problem is, if a 3D printer’s firmware is hacked and a part’s internal geometry is altered as a result, there are no standardized approaches for verifying and certifying the part for accuracy. That is, until now.

Thanks to the in-depth project undertaken by the joint team of researchers, an innovative three-part approach for detecting and combating 3D printing cyberattacks has been established. The first part begins with the movement of the 3D printer’s extruder.

As the researchers explain, the first step in their protection process is to monitor the 3D printer’s operation using acoustic measurement. That is, using a microphone and filtering software, the acoustic monitoring enabled the researchers to “detect changes in the printer’s sound” which could indicate the presence of malicious software.

The second step involves tracking the physical movement of the 3D printer’s extrusion mechanism using low cost sensors. "Just looking at the noise and the extruder's motion, we can figure out if the print process is following the design or a malicious defect is being introduced," said Saman Aliari Zonouz, an associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.

The third approach, which could be used in combination with the two other steps, uses Raman Spectroscopy and computer tomography (CT) to scan the internal components of a 3D printed part to check for defects.

This is done by mixing gold nanorods into the filament, which function as “contrast agents” in the final 3D printed part. “Once the object is printed and shipped back, high-tech scanning reveals whether the nanoparticles—a few microns in diameter—have shifted in the object or have holes or other defects,” said the researchers.

Georgia Tech professor Raheem Beyah

The researchers tested all the methods using three types of 3D printing systems as well as a CNC machine. A polyethylene tibial knee prosthesis was used as the test model.

"The idea that additive manufacturing processes could be compromised to intentionally hurt someone hasn't really been considered with some of these applications," said Raheem Beyah, associate chair at Georgia Tech’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. "There is a good bit of room to improve the security of 3D printers, and we think that will start with applications that are closest to humans, such as implants and medical devices."

The researchers say their next step is to identify other ways 3D printers could be hacked and cyberattacked, and to develop defense and protection methods against them.



Posted in 3D Printing Technology



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