Hackers Can Use Your Robot to Cause You Harm

rovio consoleImagine purchasing a new Rovio robot. This wheeled mobile robot sports a webcam and can be accessed easily through the internet. Often these and other robots are bought as toys, used by the owners to check on their home during a vacation, perhaps for teleconferencing, or to check on an elderly loved one.

Now imagine a malevolent hacker from Russia or China, or your next door neighbor, or a even stalker gaining access to this robot. Now they have free access to your home, roving about checking to see if the owner is home, spying on your children, or perhaps taking embarrassing video of you or your family. What if the robot is commanded to break items in your home, hide your keys, or drive under the feet of granny to harm her? Millions of these robots have been sold, meaning they are quite ubiquitous and therefore prime targets of malicious hackers.

Researchers at the University of Washington recently studied the RoboSapien V2, the Rovio, and the Spykee and found quite a few easily exploitable security flaws. Although today's robots are relatively harmless and limited, it points out how security features are generally lacking in the design. Understandable, considering how cost is very much a key factor for a robot succeeding in the market place. Yet robots in the future will be stronger, more capable, and unfortunately perhaps even more exploitable.

Security was an afterthought for the design of the internet. It doesn't need to be for the coming robot revolution.

You can find a quick summary of the findings here:

https://www.cs.washington.edu/research/security/robots/

And more details in the paper, "A Spotlight on Security and Privacy Risks with Future Household Robots: Attacks and Lessons" [PDF]:

http://www.cs.washington.edu/homes/tdenning/files/papers/ubicomp_robots_authors_copy.pdf

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