3D Printing Industry becomes target for Cybersecurity concerns

3D Printing Industry becomes target for Cybersecurity concerns

Almost every player in the tech sector is vulnerable to cybersecurity concerns, and the 3D printing market is no exception. Today, it seems inevitable that cybersecurity concerns will affect every aspect of the tech sector. And, although we have not yet heard any headlining stories about cyberattacks in the 3D printing industry, the market is not immune to such concerns

Recently, a report authored by cybersecurity and materials engineers at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering, investigated some aspects of the 3D printing process that are most vulnerable to cyber intervention. In particular, the report – published in the Journal of the Minerals, Metals & Materials Society – examined printing orientation and insertion of fine defects. Nikhil Gupta, associate professor of mechanical engineering at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering, state that “these are possible foci for attacks that could have a devastating impact on users of the end product, and economic impact in the form of recalls and lawsuits.”

Tangible concerns

For a market that’s set to quadruple by 2020, these possible points of impact are concerning indeed. The report goes on to explain how exactly these aspects of the additive manufacturing process can be manipulated by outside forces. For instance, the orientation of an object during printing could make up to a 25 % difference in the object’s strength, creating a real security issue (particularly when it comes to 3D printed materials in the healthcare and aerospace arenas). What’s even more alarming is that, since CAD files for additive manufacturing don’t give instructions for printer head orientation, malicious actors could deliberately alter the process without any form of detection.

This cybersecurity vulnerability, then, lies somewhere in the 3D printing supply chain. Ramesh Karri, a professor of electrical and computer engineering who was also involved in the report, explains that “with the growth of cloud-based and decentralized production environments, it is critical that all entities within the additive manufacturing supply chain be aware of the unique challenges presented to avoid significant risk to the reliability of the product.” For instance, a hacker could manipulate a printer connected to the internet to create internal defects as a component is being printed. Essentially, states Karri, “new cybersecurity methods and tools are required to protect critical parts from such compromise.”

Market response

The cybersecurity market has to respond to this new need for security measures in the 3D printing supply chain. Historically, the cyber market has been quick to respond to specific demand, so there’s no doubt in anybody’s mind that specific cybersecurity measures will soon be released to fulfil this need in the market. The easiest shift appears to be for companies already comfortable dealing in the cloud security space.

For instance, Imprivata is a cybersecurity company that already specializes in the healthcare field – one of additive manufacturing’s largest prospective markets. Imprivata, whose share price has seen a whopping 68.14 percent gain since the beginning of the year (earning it a place on Cybersecurity Ventures’ Cybersecurity 500 list) currently offers an IT security and identity platform which allows for authentication management, quick access to patient info, security communications, and positive patient identification products.

Companies like Imprivata, which have familiarity in both cybersecurity and 3D printing’s biggest verticals, may have an edge as the cyber market adapts to the need for cybersecurity measures in the additive manufacturing supply chain.


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