Being Watchful About Digital Designs…

Posted on November 17, 2016
Filed Under Technology | Leave a Comment

imagesYou can’t be too careful, it’s always been said in responsible technical circles. True, and the circles keep being enlarged in these digital times. Take, for example, the “construction” via a 3D printer of propellers for drones.

In a post on New Atlas, David Szondy conjures up the vision of an F-35 fighter plane on a routine supersonic flight. It kicks in its afterburners and “Suddenly, there’s an almighty bang as one of the turbine blades in the jet engine disintegrates and within seconds the US$85 million plane is tearing itself to pieces.”

Is it, Szondy asks rhetorically, an accident or sabotage? Well, according to researchers at Ben Gurion University (BGU), “this scenario could be an example of a new type of cyber warfare where saboteurs can fool 3D printers into creating self-destructing parts that are indistinguishable from the real thing.”

Szondy’s post describes how an email file sent to a simulated victim could launch a
a digital chain of events leading to a design failure and disaster. Read the post to get a sense of what could become wantonly possible in these hacker-beset times. And, if you’re in sensitive work, be ever alert to see that it doesn’t.

Computers provide bushels of information with such ease that we can brush aside considerations of its authenticity – not if we’re being professional, but if we’re digitally fatigued. The mere idea that we are turning design over to 3D anythings is losing its novelty. But a 3D printer’s instructions are merely digital files that can be manipulated on a laptop. Which can be subject to hacking. And thus, a chain of concern…

An international team of researchers from Ben Gurion University, the University of South Alabama and Singapore University makes all this clear in a paper they’ve done on “spoofing” 3D printers. It’s a tract for our times if there ever was one and Szondy provides a link to it.

(The photo above shows two seemingly identical propellers created on a 3D printer – but only one is authentic, the other is designed to destruct in flight.) – Doug Bedell


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