Secure robotics essential

Friday 5th May 2017
Most recent industrial robots courtesy Google

Google Docs fishing scam and concern over safety and security of IoT (Internet of Things) fade against researcher publicity and concern at the ability to remotely hack into an industrial robot and then manipulate its commands.

As early as 2015, the top three security threats were declared. Now as safety and security of Internet of Things (IoT) devices continues to mount, researchers discover that industrial robots can be remotely hacked to cause potentially devastating damage. Researchers at security firm Trend Micro and Italy's Politecnico Milano found that many internet-connected industrial machines run on outdated software or have poor software protection. The experts targeted an ABB IRB140 industrial robot, capable of carrying a payload of up to 6kg, that was programmed to draw a straight line. By exploiting a remote code vulnerability in the robot's controller software, they reverse engineered the RobotWare control program and RobotStudio software and were able to inject faults and micro defects into the work piece

Given this recent finding, Cesare Garlati, chief security strategist (left)  at prpl Foundation said "Robots present a great opportunity to automate tasks and make human life more efficient, but equally can present a grave danger to the public if internal security controls are not properly addressed at the development stages.

The example here is that the Robot is still drawing a straight line. That is what it was programmed to do. However, the consequences, should a robot be infiltrated and hacked, could be calamitous. If on the manufacturing line a hacker could configure new code to adjust certain measurements or rules for the robot, the final product could be compromised and this would potentially endanger the consumer.

A prime example could be when manufacturing cars. If this is the road manufacturers want to go down, security at the development stage must be at core when these industrial robots are created. And that goes for all IoT connected devices. If they’re not secure, then they have no business being integrated or introduced to society.

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