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Robotic Security: Hacked Robots Pose Safety Issues, especially for Humans Working Side by Side

By Dick Weisinger

Recent cyberattacks originating from IoT devices have caused many to be alarmed at the massive number of devices that are being hooked up to the internet with low to no security. The number of IoT-based attacks tripled in 2016.  But an even greater worry might be cyberattacks originating from robots, a special category of IoTY devices,  according to a recent study by IOActive.

The IOActive report uncovered significant cybersecurity flaws in software that leave those robots vulnerable to hacking, and a hacked autonomous robot could potentially inflict serious physical damage. This is especially important as robotic designers are increasingly trying to build robots that closely support and work side-by-side with humans, as reported by Forrester.

The IOActive report concluded that “when you think of robots as computers with arms, legs or wheels, they become kinetic IoT devices that, if hacked, can pose new serious threats we have never encountered before. As human-robot interactions improve and evolve, new attack vectors emerge and threat scenarios expand. Mechanical extremities, peripheral devices, and human trust expand the area where cybersecurity issues could be exploited to cause harm, destroy property, or even kill.”

Lucas Apa, a senior security consultant at IOActive, told Newsweek that “there is some basic security protections in place, but in general they are very insecure. One of the main issues is that of authentication. It is possible to access and interact with many of the robots without providing any kind of security credentials. As far as we’re aware, no robots have been hacked yet. However, we’ve seen people die or injured due to incidents with industrial or medical robots, so you can see what the potential is.”

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