A Team of Hackers Shows How Frighteningly Easy It Is To Hack Home Robots

Tuesday, 22 August 2017 - 10:29AM
Technology
Robotics
Tuesday, 22 August 2017 - 10:29AM
A Team of Hackers Shows How Frighteningly Easy It Is To Hack Home Robots
Image credit: IO Active
Cyber attacks are one of the great threats of our generation. Anyone who's seen Mr. Robot knows that all it takes is one solid hack to break the right security system, and the world's economy could be destroyed in short order. This kind of attack can't physically hurt anybody (apart from the stock brokers jumping out of windows), but as attendees at an upcoming convention on cyber security will learn firsthand, it's surprisingly easy to take control of large, dangerous robots in factories around the world and reprogram them for sabotage, surveillance, and destruction.

At Hack in the Box, a conference held in Singapore later this week, cyber security experts Lucas Apa and Cesar Cerrudo plan to show off some techniques that can be used to turn common robots into killing machines, with the goal of alerting attendees to the dangers of a weak security system even for a seemingly benign piece of equipment. The pair will show off how two common household robots, the Alpha2 and NAO, can be reworked with surprising ease to repurpose them for nefarious ends.

Apparently, changing a few lines of code within UBTech's Alpha2 will transform the children's toy into a very real incarnation of horror doll Chucky:



Meanwhile, hack the Softbank NAO, and cyber criminals can spy on people directly within their own homes:



What's really concerning here is just how easy these and other personal robots are to hack. With adorable reprogrammable robots becoming a more common feature in houses around the world, there's an increased chance for criminals to take advantage of their abilities in order to wreak havoc—above and beyond the ways that autonomous drones are currently being used for smuggling and other illicit practices.

Similarly concerning is the lack of security in factories and engineering labs, where heavy machinery can be hacked to cause harm to workers. Universal Robots, used in a variety of manufacturing environments, can be easily reprogrammed to ignore safety protocols and swing around in dangerous, violent movement patterns that can potentially kill unsuspecting workers.



As robots of this nature continue to become an increasingly important part of daily life, it's worrying that the security on devices like these is currently so lax. Granted, even the biggest of media and technology firms has a hard time keeping out cyber attacks, but this, if anything, makes the potential dangers all the more pressing. As computational technology gets more advanced, we could see hacks like these taking place with greater regularity, putting human lives at risk.

Here's hoping that those attending Hack in the Box take these threats seriously. If the people designing robot architecture can be persuaded to make security a priority, we'll hopefully be able to avoid any genuine disasters and keep Elon Musk's killer robot prophecies from coming true.
Science
Science News
Technology
Robotics
No