Cyberattacks on 3D printers result in defective products

Cyberattacks occur on many types of devices—including 3D printers. A new study, conducted by researchers at Rutgers University-New Brunswick and Georgia Institute of Technology, examines methods in protecting 3D printers for improved cybersecurity.

The study, which was presented at the 26th USENIX Security Symposium, reviewed methods professionals can take in protecting 3D printers and preventing cyberattacks from corrupting devices.

"They will be attractive targets because 3D-printed objects and parts are used in critical infrastructures around the world, and cyberattacks may cause failures in healthcare, transportation, robotics, aviation and space," said Saman Aliari Zonouz, an associate professor at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.

Currently, 3D-printed health- and safety-related devices are produced without standards for accuracy. This leads to many organizations sending software-designed products to be printed in outside facilities, increasing susceptibility to hackers. The study had researchers purchase different 3D printers to show how hacking into the firmware can lead to defective objects.

"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 at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. "The results could be devastating, and you would have no way of tracing where the problem came from."