With cyber attacks on 3D printers likely to threaten health and safety, a team of researchers has developed three novel methods to combat them.
“They will be attractive targets because 3D-printed objects and parts are used in critical infrastructures around the world, and cyber attacks may cause failures in health care, transportation, robotics, aviation and space,” said Saman Aliari Zonouz, an associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.
He co-authored a peer-reviewed study entitled “See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Feel No Evil, Print No Evil? Malicious Fill Pattern Detection in Additive Manufacturing” that was published at the 26th USENIX Security Symposium in Vancouver, Canada. It’s the security community’s flagship event, highlighting the latest advances in protecting computer systems and networks. Among several unique techniques, the research team from Rutgers and the Georgia Institute of Technology is using cancer imaging techniques to detect intrusions and hacking of 3D printer controllers.
“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,” said Mehdi Javanmard, study co-author and assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Rutgers. “The results could be devastating and you would have no way of tracing where the problem came from.”
3D printing, also called additive manufacturing, plays an increasingly important role in industrial manufacturing. But health- and safety-related products such as medical prostheses and aerospace parts are being printed with no standard way to verify them for accuracy, the study says.
Even houses and buildings are being manufactured by 3D printers, noted Javanmard.
Instead of spending up to $100,000 USD or more to buy a 3D printer, many companies and organizations send software-designed products to outside facilities for printing, Zonouz said. But the firmware in printers may be hacked.
For their study, the researchers bought several 3D printers and showed that it’s possible to hack into a computer’s firmware and print defective objects. The defects were undetectable on the outside but the objects had holes or fractures inside them.
Other researchers have shown in a YouTube video how hacking can lead to a defective propeller in a drone, causing it to crash, Zonouz noted.