Sara Verbruggen

Freelance journalist

Author Bio ▼

Experienced freelance B2B journalist and editor, specialising in fields of renewable energy, energy storage, smart grids and nanotech.
March 9, 2017

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The Intruder Alarm Report 2020

Robot Fears

Hacked robots could spy on owners, rob our homes and attack us

Robots turning on human masters sounds like a Paul Verhoeven movie, yet according to one global cybersecurity consultancy, artificial intelligence vulnerable to hacking may have serious consequences.

SoftBank’s Pepper – one of many robots vulnerable to hacking

A recent paper published by IOActive reveals numerous vulnerabilities found in many makes of robots designed for residential, industrial and commercial environments.

To produce its results the firm evaluated 50 robot makes and models, including some of the world’s most popular robots such as SoftBank’s Pepper and and Rethink Robotics’ Baxter

Vulnerabilities

Many of the vulnerabilities identified were graded as high or critical risk, leaving the robots highly susceptible to cyberattacks.

Potential ways that hackers can take control of robots range from turning their microphones into bugging devices and using their cameras to spy. Cyber attacks on robots could also facilitate leaking of confidential data. In some scenarios, robots could also be reprogrammed to cause physical harm to people and damage to property in their vicinity.

As robots substitute humans in various sectors, from healthcare, to industrial manufacturing to retail, cyber-attack risks will increase. Similarly built-in cameras and speakers in smartphones, tablets and other gadgets, can potentially be hacked to record images and sounds without the owner’s consent.

The growth in demand for robots will see global expenditure on AI machines double to $188 billion by 2020, according to analysis firm IDC.

Cesar Cerrudo, chief technology officer at IOActive Labs, which specialises in finding flaws in devices and gadgets linked up to communicate, as part of the ‘Internet of Things’ said:

“Once the robots start to be in every home and many businesses, the motivation to hack them will increase exponentially.”

While IOActive has yet to find proof of any cyber assaults on robots, Cerrudo warned that malicious hacking of these machines could be used to interrupt an organisation’s operations.

Universal Robots states it is aware of IOActive’s report and is investigating potential weaknesses with the view to developing countermeasures.

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