Those helpful robots you like are easily hacked, says cyber security firm

As robots move further away from science fiction and closer to your home and workplace, a new consideration must be taken: are these robots secure?

No, we don't just mean "can this thing go rogue, Skynet-style?" Hacking is also a serious concern facing consumer-level automatons, and one that should apparently be taken far more seriously.

Seattle-based cyber security firm IOActive claims that several popular robots used in residential and industrial centers are full of vulnerabilities for malicious hackers to exploit, according to Bloomberg.

Such robots include industrial robots designed by Teradyne's Universal Robots division, which IOActive was able to remotely hack and disengage key safety features on, rendering the robot potentially capable of major property or bodily damage, even at low-running speeds.

Home-oriented robots like SoftBank's NAO and Pepper were also found to be wide open for cyber attacks, with IOActive turning the small robots into secret recording devices and, in one humorous (albeit still chilling) example, an unhinged stabbing machine complete with a little maniacal laugh. 

Someone call DedSec

The goal of IOActive's demonstrations were to convince the companies making robots to greatly consider stronger security going forward, while also patching the vulnerabilities the firm uncovered for currently released products. 

IOActive initially wrote a report on the issue earlier this year, but withheld details on how it made its hacks in order to give manufacturers time to address the findings. 

Starting today, the firm plans to release more technical details in order to spur more companies into stepping up their security (as well as advertise their consulting expertise, we imagine).

“If we know about these vulnerabilities, chances are that we’re not the only ones,” said IOActive principal security consultant Lucas Apa in the report, adding that, "these are early days for the robotics industry, but as it grows, we want to make sure it has a more secure future."

Parker Wilhelm
Parker Wilhelm is a freelance writer for TechRadar. He likes to tinker in Photoshop and talk people's ears off about Persona 4.