3D Printers, and the future of cybercrime

The Future

So the world is progressing, changing and as it gets better some things get worse.  Or, more correctly, as smart criminals acquire amazing new tools their crimes become more complex and easier for them to disguise.  Take this article for example, click here, from Krebs on Security.  In it the author, Brian Krebs (@briankrebs), expounds on his prior articles regarding ATM skimming with this fantastic story.  In it, and I am paraphrasing, the con artists raised about $10,000.00 through a much more simple identity theft scheme, then invested that money into a 3D printer and used said 3D printer to create CAD-level accurate ATM skimmer housings to modify ATM machines with.  They turned their $10,000.00 investment into an estimated $400,000.00 of gross profit.  If this were legitimate I would have to applaud the amazing business venture.  But it isn't and it is showing a frightening new trend.


Let's face it, fabrication isn't an easy thing for most of us.  And if you saw a skimmer on a ATM machine that didn't match the design, coloring, and quality of the ATM you might notice it.  But with 3D printing you don't need such amazing skills.  You just need to know how to use a CAD program, or at least get yourself CAD drawings from someone who does, and hit print.  The rest is all geek-craft, e.g. adding the minimal electronics you need to read magnetic strips, etc. to the housing.  If you were clever enough, you got or made real drawings for the enclosure and used similar parts and it all fits together with ease. Worse case, there is always that trusty hot glue gun.

But I am not writing to rehash the great article and research done by Brian Krebs, instead I want to extrapolate on how things like this are changing the landscape of physical crimes perpetrated by the technically savvy.  3D printers are amazing, I wish I had one just so I could make chess pieces and other fun doo-dads for around the house.  Wouldn't it be great to fabricate a broken part for something?  Yea I think so too, but I don't have 10K to drop on that toy.  And really, with patience I don't need to.  Soon enough these will be far more affordable for the average person.  So will laser etching printers which can also be used to fabricate or etch/mark items.  

Fraud has always been a stable used by cyber criminals.  Often we hear about phishing and other forms of ID theft.  It's easy money really.  But what happens when we start seeing pirated physical goods with exact perfect logos on them being made in the home garage and not in a factory in China. (Just an example.)  Making a skimmer is one thing, but what happens when someone makes a critical plastic part and sells it as the real thing.  This could cost lives and points to a quickly growing area of content protection and intellectual property theft.  That of hard goods.  I won't even start the fear mongering over fake pharmaceuticals.  

It's hard enough to get the common person to pay attention to what they are doing on their computer.  Situational awareness isn't what it should be for most people online, and it isn't an age gap issue.  The young are naive by nature,  older people are unfamiliar with the dangers of being online, and then somewhere in the middle we have the first-ish generation of people who may have the "street smarts" to know what is happening.  But the complexity of how criminals are targeting everyone else is growing exponentially faster than the awareness of their victims.  I dare say, it's even growing faster than legislation can keep up with it.  To this day, it is still difficult to bring someone up on charges for hacking especially if it is a complicated case.  The reason being that it is very hard to find a jury who would understand.  Perhaps we need more "CSI" episodes that involve computer crimes mixed with physical evidence to educate the masses.  .