As with any new piece of technology, there are a lot of kinks that need to be worked out with regards to 3D printers and scanners.
Now that these devices are beginning to proliferate more widely and are becoming accessible to the average consumer, it is vital that people understand the unique cybersecurity challenges that they present.
Not only is the number of 3D printing-related devices in consumers’ homes increasing by the day, but the range of hardware being used is also increasing – ensuring that this hardware is properly secured against potential cyber-attacks is, therefore, becoming an increasingly pressing issue.
Every single piece of hardware used in 3D printing, everything from high-end commercial 3D printers right down to consumer devices like the Artec 3D scanner needs to be connected to an external computer in order to function.
It doesn’t matter whether the related software is proprietary or open-source, wherever you have software controlling hardware, there is scope for cyberattacks to occur.
Over the next couple of decades, as the capabilities of 3D printers continue to evolve, we can expect them to be deployed for an increasingly wide range of potential scenarios.
Already we have 3D printers being used in the field of medicine. In fact, 3D printed components have recently caused some controversy after a team of 3D printing enthusiasts produced a normally very expensive component for ventilators treating Covid-19 patients for just a couple of dollars.
The medical device industry already has a very shaky reputation when it comes to cybersecurity.
If we are serious about using 3D printed devices in medicine, especially if they are to be used internally in patients, then it is imperative that we are able to trust the security of the devices that produce them.
Even if you only have a single 3D printer connected to a single computer, it is important to consider your cybersecurity.
Once you upscale this setup to form an entire network of hardware, you will necessarily introduce a number of new weak points.
Put simply, the more devices you have on a network, the more difficult it is to keep them all secure.
In order to form secure device networks, 3D printer manufacturers need to be encouraged to build strong security into their products as standard.
At present, there is not much that the end-user can do to improve the security of their devices, this is an area where manufacturers have to take the lead.
The Stakes Are High
If an attacker is able to poison 3D print files, the scope for serious sabotage is enormous. While 3D printers are mostly being used by hobbyists and normal consumers, any damage is likely to be limited in nature.
However, as these devices proliferate and are used for infrastructure, science, and medical projects, the stakes are going to rise.
As it stands, even basic encryption is not a standard feature of most 3D printers, meaning that they are lacking in the most essential security measures.
However, while 3D printers are becoming more sophisticated by the day, their cybersecurity measures leave a lot to be desired. Until manufacturers start taking their obligations more seriously, this is unlikely to change.