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Like other technologies that rely on digital data, there is a potential threat and the risk of data breaches in Additive Manufacturing. These data breaches could wreak havoc on the entire process and compromise the security and integrity of the product. This article will discuss the most common ways data breaches can occur in an AM process. It will also provide recommendations to mitigate such risks to help secure your 3D printing process.

Unauthorized Access to Design Files

Typically, the design files used for 3D printing get stored on a computer or a server. Although it makes it convenient for the printer to access the files, it can also make it vulnerable to cyber threats. Files not adequately protected can be accessed easily by unauthorized users, who can steal the design.

Hackers can use it to sell counterfeit products or create knock-offs.

When there are vulnerabilities in the security of the file storage system, like weak passwords, outdated software, or unsecured networks, a hacker can quickly take advantage of it. Implementing security measures such as encryption, access controls, and regular software update can prevent unauthorized access to design files. It is a good idea to restrict the number of people authorized to access the design files.

Physical Design Theft

A data breach can also occur when a physical design is not protected adequately. 3D printing can be used to replicate an original design, resulting in issues of intellectual property theft and compromised product integrity.

The physical design can be stolen by taking a copy of the physical design or through unauthorized copying of the digital design files. Either way, it is essential for physical designs to be placed in a secured location, to keep them from being stolen or duplicated by unscrupulous individuals.

Malware or Cyberattacks

One growing concern in this industry is the use of malware or cyberattacks. Those who are not cautious enough may find themselves victims and have malware installed on the 3D printer’s software.

Malware can be very disruptive to the entire company’s operations. It can give cybercriminals access to the system and possibly allow them remote access to all sensitive information. Whatever they decide to undertake once they get access, expect it to hamper your operations.

Some of the things that can possibly happen are for the printing process to be disrupted or files to get deleted, which can cause the printer to produce faulty or damaged parts.

Vulnerabilities in the hardware components of the 3D printer can be exploited by cybercriminals. Hence, it is best to always check if the printer’s firmware is up-to-date. Adequate security measures like firewalls and antivirus software must also be in place to protect the entire system from cyber threats.

Insider Threats

One common concern for companies engaged in 3D printing is insider threats. Authorized personnel who have access to the printers and design files can easily steal any valuable information. They can use it for personal gain or sell it through the black market. It puts the company’s intellectual property at risk and can result in significant financial loss.

Insider threats can actually be classified into two: intentional insider threats and unintentional insider threats. Let us differentiate the two.

Intentional insider threats are carried out by employees who may not be satisfied with their job or the pay that the company is giving them. They get offered money in exchange for their company’s sensitive data. This type of threat can be avoided by implementing access controls and making sure that you do not have disgruntled employees who may find all means to seek revenge and steal designs by copying them into external drives or uploading them to cloud storage.

Unintentional insider threats happen when employees unknowingly expose sensitive data by sharing passwords or putting design files on an unsecured computer or external drive. This type of insider threat usually results from having employees who do not have proper training in security protocols or fail to abide by company procedures. Threats like this are mitigated by providing much-needed training and awareness programs.

Regular security assessments can protect the company from insider threats. It can include restricting access to design files to authorized personnel, using multi-factor authentication to access the printer, and implementing encryption for data transmissions to and from the 3D printer.

It is now clear that data breaches can occur in the 3D printing process. These breaches can have serious consequences on the security and integrity of the product and the company. Companies can take proactive steps to ensure the 3D printing process remains secure and free from the risk of data breaches.

This article has been written by Marites Hervas.

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