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Bad Vibrations: UCI Researchers Find Security Breach in 3D Printing Process

By UCI News

March 8, 2016

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Researchers at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) have discovered a significant risk for the three-dimensional (3D) printing process, in that the machines emit acoustic signals that contain a lot of information.

The team, led by Mohammad Al Faruque, director of UCI's Advanced Integrated Cyber-Physical Systems Lab, says a smartphone could be placed next to a 3D printer and capture information about the precise movements of the machine's nozzle. They warn the recording could be used to reverse-engineer the object being printed and re-create it elsewhere.

"If process and product information is stolen during the prototyping phases, companies stand to incur large financial losses," Al Faruque says.

His team achieved nearly 90% accuracy using the sound copying process to duplicate a key-shaped object in the lab.

State-of-the-art 3D printing systems build objects by converting digital information embedded in source code, which can be protected from cybertheft with strong encryption. However, once the creation process has begun, the sounds, vibrations, and other acoustic signals can expose the secrets buried in the software, the UCI team says.

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