Robots that are left unsecured on the internet are prone to intrusions and attacks by hackers, says a study presented at the 2018 Robotics Science and Systems conference in Pittsburgh, USA. Hacker attacks can affect both the robot and its human operator. On attacking, the hacker may be able to read the camera feeds and even send commands to move the robots around. In the study conducted, a team of researchers from Brown University in Rhode Island, USA performed a worldwide search of hosts running the Robot Operating System (ROS) over three different periods in 2017 and 2018. As a result, they found as many as 100 exposed systems, in which up to 19 of them were considered to be fully operational robots.
Robot Operating System (ROS) is the dominant platform used in research robotics. It is a framework for writing robot software. One of the robots exposed happened to be in the lab of Siddhartha Srinivasa, a professor of Computer Science at the University of Washington and a collaborator of the research team. With his permission, they took over control of the robot and showed that they could use the robot’s camera, move its neck, and even make it speak using ROS’ speech function. "Though a few unsecured robots might not seem like a critical issue, our study has shown that a number of research robots is accessible and controllable from the public Internet," the research team said. They added that the findings are a reminder that everyone needs to be mindful of security in an increasingly connected digital world.
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