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Ransomware, the act of locking down a device and demanding payment in return for their data back, is now being used to hack robots. This is like a real-world version of Chucky.
IOActive’s researchers successfully infected a humanoid NAO robot made by Softbank using custom-built ransomware. These cute little robots are made for schools as well as businesses, and around 10,000 have already been sold globally. The security firm’s researchers also declared that the Pepper robot, a sibling of the NAO robot which is equipped with a camera and microphone, could also be hacked.
Watch the video below to see the robot getting hacked in real-time.
Sure, the video of the little robot being hacked is kind of funny, but this is actually no laughing matter. For starters, children use these robots in schools—and a robot demanding ransom is not an ideal method of teaching. But it also shows the potential for ransomware in robots as a whole, and that gives us an inkling into how damaging this could be—especially to businesses.
Businesses tend not to be as cybercrime conscious when it comes to robots as they are with their computers. In fact, many companies probably haven’t even considered the danger of their robots becoming infected.
For starters, a ransomware attack could cause all robots to cease operation, and every moment they’re not working the business loses money. While robots do not store the immense amounts of data that computers do, a business will need to get their infected robots operational again to keep production on track.
Of course, they could just fork over the money—or bitcoins, as cybercriminals tend to prefer—and be done with the matter. But that’s still a loss, and worse, it tells the crook that they’re willing to pay up and they’ll become a prime target for more ransomware attacks in the future.
The researchers demonstrated not only the capability to shut down the robots but the ability to alter their actions. They also revealed that a crook can attack the robot simply by having access to the same WiFi network that the robot is using—child’s play for hackers.
As of today, you may not come across many robots in your daily activities, but that will soon change. You’ve heard about computers taking our jobs, well robots are already working faster and more efficiently than any human ever could in countless manufacturing facilities around the world. And these robots will soon venture out from behind factory walls and into a store near you.
For instance, Best Buy is testing a robot called Chloe that can fetch whatever a customer wants in around 30 seconds. Orchard hardware, a store owned by Lowe’s, is testing a five-foot-tall robot that can guide customers around the store to help them find the product they’re looking for. And one day, you’ll probably own your own robot to assist with chores around the house.
Today, the healthcare industry is perhaps the most susceptible to ransomware attacks. Doctors currently rely on robots to help perform surgeries. Can you picture a robotic surgical device becoming infected with malware—without the surgeon knowing—as the doc’s about to perform an operation?
Even worse, can you imagine your future robot standing by your bed at 2am demanding you “pay me or die”?
While we might be a ways off from that last part being a reality, the makers of robots do need to address security issues beginning with the start of production through every phase of the manufacturing process. Yes, it is more work and money on the part of the manufacturers, but you know that old saying: A stitch in time saves nine.
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