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Smartphone Hacks 3D Printer by Measuring 'Leaked' Energy and Acoustic Waves


Illustration of a smartphone hacking a 3-D printer.

The ubiquity of smartphones and their sophisticated gadgetry make them an ideal tool to steal sensitive data from three-dimensional printers, according to a new University at Buffalo study

Credit: Wenyao Xu

State University of New York at Buffalo (UB) researchers say anyone with a smartphone could potentially steal intellectual property from a business' three-dimensional (3D) printer.

Although analysts say 3D printing will become a multibillion-dollar industry, the technology's security vulnerabilities have not been addressed.

UB researchers programmed a smartphone's sensors to measure the electromagnetic energy and acoustic waves produced by 3D printers, and used this data to infer the location of the print nozzle as it created the printed object. At 20 centimeters away from the printer, the researchers found the phone was able to gather enough data to enable them to replicate a simple printed object with a 94% accuracy rate.

"Smartphones are so common that industries may let their guard down, thus creating a situation where intellectual property is ripe for theft," says UB professor Chi Zhou.

The researchers say there are several ways to make 3D printing more secure, including restricting access to a machine printing sensitive materials, and increasing the speed of printing. They also propose software-based solutions, such as programming the printer to operate at different speeds, and hardware-based concepts, such as acoustic and electromagnetic shields.

From UB News Center
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