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Novel Security Vulnerability Discovered for 3D Printers

Category: Science & Technology
Posted: 08:33AM

For just about any manufacturing company, securing intellectual property is of the utmost importance. This is especially true during the prototyping phase where we are seeing 3D printing technologies being used to reduce costs and speed up fabrication. While the files directing 3D printers can be encrypted for protection, researchers at the University of California, Irvine have discovered the sound produced by the printer can be used to steal the design being printed.

The researchers found this while actually studying the relationship between information and energy flows. It follows from fundamental laws of physics that energy is converted, not consumed. Sometimes the form energy takes one carries with it information we can gather and translate into something useful. In this case, the acoustic signals from the printers can be captured and processed to discover the precise movements of the printer's nozzle. From that it is possible to re-create whatever the object was being printed.

As any smartphone could be used to record the audio of a 3D printer, this could be a significant security issue. The researchers suggest finding ways to jam the acoustic signals, such as by adding white-noise devices, to obfuscate the information behind random sounds. On a more basic level, preventing people working in factories from carrying smartphones near 3D printers could also work.

Source: University of California, Irvine

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