Plans for Plastic Guns

NBC News reports here on plans by states to block what they call “instructions online for making plastic guns from 3-D printers.”  A more precise technical term would be CAD files.   Extremetech opines here on challenges stemming from 3-D printed weapons.

Keep in mind that your typical home 3-D printer uses a feedstock of plastic that melts at very low temperatures.  Such plastic is highly unlikely to produce a gun that would fire even once.  Printers that can make guns that fire at all would be more expensive.

Also keep in mind that preventing one person from distributing CAD files for weapons doesn’t prevent this information from circulating.  Reverse engineering products to create CAD files is common practice and reverse engineering services are widely available.

If we look at CAD file distribution as intellectual property theft, we should remember that many other products are vulnerable to this approach.  It is only a matter of time, for example, before someone scans an entire automobile and posts the CAD files.

Cyber Warfare is Warfare

It can be easy to consider cyber warfare to be less serious than traditional warfare.  But let’s be clear: cyber warfare is warfare.  Information disruption and theft may not be physically obvious but experience shows that attacks on information, wherever they come from, have very serious consequences, both immediate and long-term.  The world has less experience with cyber-physical warfare, but its effects are dramatic.  Keep in mind that even small-scale damage to infrastructure can take months to fix, given the long replacement cycles for such equipment.   You don’t run down to Home Depot and pick up a substation transformer.  This type of equipment is built to order, with weeks or months of wait time, even in the best of circumstances.  A large scale attack against physical infrastructure could overwhelm repair abilities and lead to huge delays restoring capability.

Cyber Civil Defense Isn’t Easy

Unfortunately, network configuration and computer security aren’t easy.   Even a relatively small home setup requires a great deal of care.  We really need better methods to set up and maintain secure computer networks.  We need better methods to set up new networks.  And since the existing networks won’t go away, we need better methods to monitor and fix networks.  These methods need to be very easy to use and friendly to non-experts.