Like last week, I started to write a post for PersonaliZe, and then changed my mind, and went in a completely different direction!
What changed my mind was a new 3D printing headline that started doing the rounds last night — you may have seen it — “3D Printed Key used to Open Handcuffs.”
A few comments from some observers on this headline, with a tone akin to a grandparent’s stern look and wagging finger, implied that 3D printing is bringing with it a whole new crime wave.
This sort of twaddle irritates me.
For a few reasons:
If we take this story as an example and look behind the headline itself, “Ray” the Hacker has demonstrated how he has been able to make a replica of a key that unlocks certain handcuff models. The data for the key was available to him on the Internet. There’s no big surprise there — what isn’t available on the Internet? Whether your motivation is of the purest kind, or the result of more sinister shenanigans, the Internet is a limitless supply of information and data.
“Ray” used a 3D printer AND a laser cutter to produce the key — that’s to say, it needed a combination of technologies to produce it. That little nugget didn’t manifest in the headlines did it?
“Ray” also acknowledged that ‘lock security was broken before. I’ve just made it easier.’ Well, maybe, but if the data was available it was always going to be possible to produce the part. Just because someone claims it is now easier to break the law, it does not necessarily follow that more people will do it. And, IMHO, it’s still not THAT easy!
I am not planning on debating the whys and wherefores of criminality or what drives people to break the law. The point I am making is that a new way of making things does not promote criminal activities. Although what it does do, is to provide a potentially new way for people to break the law, IF they are that way inclined. For criminals, 3D printing offers a new tool in the toolbox — just like it does for makers and for engineers. It’s only the application that is different.
For centuries crime prevention organizations have had to adapt their approach to the behaviour and the activities of the perpetrators in order to police, prevent, catch or prosecute them. The advent of 3D printing for criminal activities is really no different.
Indeed, Ray’s stated motivation for highlighting this issue, as a security advisor to German police, was to bring it to light to enable prevention.
Incidentally, with regards to this particular story, the key in question opened two particular handcuff brands, but proved too weak to open a third brand of handcuff. I mean, you hardly have to be a brain surgeon to identify the logic here — that third brand will surely see an increase in sales in the coming weeks and months, while the other two work on strengthening their locks!