3D Printing and Piracy

Information security is always important, and when not designed and enforced properly creates holes that allow unauthorized access to your critical data. Any exposure of salaries, customer credit cards, financials, and product designs may be potentially fatal to your organization. To the extent that your business processes information, your loss of data may be even more damaging. If you are a bank and suffer theft of information it may be the very reason you go out of business. But if you are a manufacturing firm, loss of data does not necessarily mean loss of product control. A bank loses this with loss of data; a manufacturer does not.

But with the advent of 3D printers that can “print” a product from a design file may allow somebody to quickly generate the same product you manufacture without you even knowing it. And now one of the most notorious file sharing sites, The Pirate Bay, has an area for “3D Designs”. This means your product design in the wild could be copied freely like MP3 music files are now. While there is not a large market now for 3D printing, it is a growing manufacturing area that as it attracts attention, will also attract pirates who can obtain your design source files, and easily run them locally to generate an identical part to the one you produce. They can start where you left off with “improving” the product and creating their own offering based on your initial labor.

A video of how these printers work

What this means to manufacturers is that they need to show the same concern about piracy and security as the recording industry does. It means ensuring that you are kept updated on operating systems and their patches; applying security rules to limit access, improving physical and logical access to systems and data, and other measures. As the recording industry has shown, once the cat is out of the bag it is almost impossible to put it back in, so looking at your system now and getting ready should at least be in your plans.

If you would like an opportunity to discuss how you can put the right systems and polices in place, feel free to place your feedback below.