A smartphone’s built-in sensors can be used to swipe important intellectual property, such as product models and prototypes, by reading a combination of acoustic traces and electromagnetic energy as a 3D printer’s print head moves across a platen.
New research discovered that it’s not just the sounds that the nozzle makes as it prints the model that gives the game away, as was previously thought. A new study indicates that by combining the collection of sounds with electromagnetic readings, hackers can obtain a powerful facsimile of what’s being made.
In this new research, scientists from the University at Buffalo say that by adding electromagnetic energy readings to collected sounds, they can get a better result compared to just sound. In their experiments, they say electromagnetic readings accounted for 80 percent of the useful data they used—sounds only 20 percent.
A “smartphone, at 20 centimeters away from the printer, gathered enough data to enable the researchers to replicate printing a simple object, such as a door stop, with a 94 percent accuracy rate,” they say in their press release.
Complex parts, like something from a car’s design, didn’t obtain the same accuracy, but it was still over 90 percent. That would be enough to make lawyers concerned.
“The tests show that smartphones are quite capable of retrieving enough data to put sensitive information at risk,” says Kui Ren, a professor in the university’s computer science and engineering department, and co-author of the study.
One of the problems with 3D printers being hackable is that the machines’ rapid-prototyping functions are being bandied as a form of democratization in manufacturing. They’re the future, some say.
Traditional product development methods, such as modeling using gluing and clay, for example, are out the window, and the 3D printer is supposed to be now bringing a speedy, competitive route to market across verticals. Sub-$500 printers are indeed common now, and at that price, the machines could conceivably end up strewn across many workshops and small manufacturing operations throughout the country. Easy spying could prove problematic for a newly freshened manufacturing industry.
“Many companies are betting on 3D printing to revolutionize their businesses,” says Wenyao Xu, of the university. However, “there are still security unknowns associated with these machines.”
Security functions in 3D printers
3D printers do have security functions, though. Watermarks exist, and the design files can be encrypted. But it’s the actual movement of the nozzle as it squirts the molten plastic to make the three-dimensional form to the printer bed that’s then problem.
Distance would help thwart an attack, the scientists say.
“The ability to obtain accurate data for simple objects diminished to 87 percent at 30 centimeters, and 66 percent at 40 centimeters,” the release explains.
Increasing the print speed or making the speed variable would also help. The smartphone sensors would find it harder to keep track of the movements. Other suggestions include “hardware-based ideas, such as acoustic and electromagnetic shields,” they say.
Acoustic jamming, and simply stopping people from carrying smartphones near the printers are suggestions that were made previously when the initial acoustic thievery method was discovered.
Meanwhile, collecting phones at the door is a suggestion.
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In massively popular augmented reality mobile game Pokémon GO, one of the major actions is catching the little monsters by throwing Pokéballs at them.
Curved throws of Pokéballs at Pokémon will get the player bonus experience points, while also increasing the chances of catching the Pokémon. However, many Pokéballs have been lost in trying to catch Pokémon with a curved throw, as it could be difficult to get the angle and timing just right.
Some gamers are not even trying to use a curved throw to catch a Pokémon, with their throws not being straight enough so they see their Pokéballs flying wayward as their chance of catching the Pokémon dwindles.
Straight throws of Pokéballs might not be as flashy as curved throws, but they still get the job done. After all, the only objective is to get the Pokéball within the shrinking rings surrounding the Pokémon during the attempt to catch it.
To help Pokémon trainers in getting off dead-straight launches of Pokéballs and increase their chances of getting the Excellent rating by landing the Pokéball within the smallest circle, Jon Cleaver has created a blueprint of a smartphone case for the job.
The plans for the case, which have been uploaded to My Mini Factory for anyone to access, is a pretty simple accessory that partly covers the smartphone’s screen. The case hugs both sides of the device and features a straight path right along the middle, through which gamers can slide their fingers across to launch a decidedly straight throw of the Pokéball.
The smartphone case can be 3D printed by gamers who are looking to get some assistance on their Pokéball throwing skills, with the case to be snapped on to the smartphone whenever the chance to catch a Pokémon appears. The case does not look like it will be offering any protection to the smartphone, but that could be the least of a gamer’s worries when faced with the chance to capture the Pokémon that they have been wanting to own since they started their Pokémon GO journey.
The catch, however, is that the smartphone case which Cleaver created is only compatible for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s. Cleaver, however, noted in the accessory’s description that he would be making more of these cases for other smartphones if there is enough interest. Looking through the few comments, it seems that there is a bit of demand for cases for other iPhone models and the Samsung Galaxy S7, so for gamers who would want to have such an accessory for their smartphone, it might be best to drop a comment and hope that Cleaver gets around to making one for your smartphone.
For Pokémon GO players who would like more tips in addition to 3D printing this smartphone case, Nick Johnson, the first gamer to catch all 142 Pokémon in the United States, offered advice for other trainers. The advice includes walking in a straight line, as the the game measures straight-line distances between locations for progress, and evolving weaker Pokémon instead of waiting to evolve stronger Pokémon to gain levels faster.
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