An Unwelcome Trend

Analyst firm Gartner Group is out with their “Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2014.” One of these is 3D printing, and this is bad news for merchants who need to protect against skimming attacks at the Point of Sale.

If you are not familiar with 3D printing, it is the process of creating a 3D copy of an object from a model. The model can be created using a CAD program or generated from a 3D scan of the object to be reproduced. Gartner expects worldwide shipments of 3D printers to grow 75 percent in 2014 followed by a near doubling of unit shipments in 2015.

So what does this have to do with skimming? 3D printers can make it easier for criminals to create high quality replacement parts to hide skimming devices installed on a point of sale. They can match colors and shapes of the case or housing of a POS device with a great deal of precision. They can create new parts that look like they are part of the factory design.

Community and the sharing of models on sites like MakerBotThingiverse is a big part of the 3D printing revolution. Unfortunately, criminals are very good at sharing what works in their own underground communities, and will also be able to share models of parts that they have used successfully.

Bad actors almost always find uses for revolutionary new technologies. Thinking about how to mitigate new risks that result is essential. It’s going to be more important than ever to know what your POS looks like in a “known good” state. Fortunately, there’s a solution for that.