Hackers are Now Attacking Even the Internet-Connected Robots

Posted on May 9, 2017 at 6:22 PM

Hackers are Now Attacking Even the Internet-Connected Robots

Tens of thousands of robots across the world were created and placed into factories in order to increase the precision and quality of the developed merchandise. They were then connected to the internet so that potential flaws could be discovered before the damage was done. Unfortunately, there’s one thing that no one has foreseen, and that’s the influence of hackers.

Trend Micro, a cybersecurity firm, in cooperation with the Italian university called Politecnico di Milano has said in their research report that none of these robots are properly protected and that all of them could be potentially hacked. This caught everyone off guard, and it would seem that a lot of thought went to cybersecurity when it comes to computers and data, but much less to protecting the robots themselves. The physical protection is decent enough, but the cloud protection is extremely faulty.

Back in 1961, when the first industrial robot was added to the assembly line in General Motors, it was clear that it’s strong, big, and that it could be very dangerous. That’s why the steps were taken, and to ensure that the robot wouldn’t harm humans or damage the merchandise, it was caged. Even though such risks are reduced today due to a lot more precision and agility, messing up with controls could have grave consequences.

Some of these consequences might include theft of trade secrets, human injuries or maybe even deaths, but the manufacturing disruption is the most likely result of such actions. The recent reports have revealed that messing with the controls and changing the parameters even a little can have big consequences and result in damaged products.

To demonstrate this, researchers have changed the robot’s parameters and managed to convince it that it’s drawing a perfectly straight line when in reality, it was making a curve. This is only a two-millimeter curve, but during the production of sensitive parts, this could have a catastrophic impact. The product will be flawed, and the quality check would even confirm that the robot followed the parameters. Now imagine if the part in question was a wing for an airplane, That should show how great this problem really is, and how important it is to secure robots both physically and online.

Keep in mind that robots like drones are used for inspecting infrastructures, recreation, military missions, and alike. On the other hand, we have industrial robots. These are used in electronics, aerospace, pharmaceutical, and automotive manufacturing, as well as many other fields as well. And there are tens of thousands of them, which are all hackable.

Of course, this report only included robots, but all IoT devices should be included and thought of as a possible weapon against you. Things like industrial robots weren’t meant to come into contact with the outside world, instead, their job would have been to work in isolation. These days, with everything on the internet being almost instantly accessible, that’s no longer the case.

It’s said that this is something that involves a real physical risk, which is something beyond the regular financial risk, or risk of getting a bad reputation. And that’s exactly why this issue must be addressed as soon as possible.


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