Primitive Industrial Espionage in 3D Printing

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An up-to-date internet user is aware that he can’t be sure in the safety of his personal data and passwords of email boxes at all, because the hacking mastery is developing along with security measures of site’s owners.  What about novelty in high-tech industry?  Maybe new machines that are launched recently are so modernized that are protected from industrial espionage from the very beginning? Or vice versa they may be more vulnerable to hacking because they are not customized and protected well.

A research group from University of California at Irvine decided to find out if a 3D design can be stolen from a modern 3D printer using a simple technique. The researchers tried to reconstruct a 3D printed model after recording the sounds of the working 3D printer.

The chief of research team, Professor Mohammad Al Faruque, claims that 3D printer sounds can define the position and movements of its extruder. Then the scientists use these defined positions to make the copy of the printed object.

“According to the fundamental laws of physics, energy is not consumed; it’s converted from one form to another — electromagnetic to kinetic, for example. Some forms of energy are translated in meaningful and useful ways; others become emissions, which may unintentionally disclose secret information.”

Special software can distinguish the slight movements of the motor and decipher the sounds even when man’s ear doesn’t tell the difference.

To test their hypothesis, the team used a key-shaped object. By recording the sounds of the 3D printer, they were able to reconstruct the object with 90 percent accuracy.

Such experiment shows that the companies can suffer financial losses if the 3D product will be stolen during the prototyping phases. And there is no solution to protect the system yet. But if there has been worked out a hacking method there should be a way to take in the theft.



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