Safeguarding our Bots – security risks in robotics

BySubham Paul

Safeguarding our Bots – security risks in robotics

Cognitive, motor and emotional abilities make humans the smartest organisms in the world. Otherwise, we would not have witnessed the series of industrial revolutions in our history of technological advancements. But ever since robotics changed the game, humans have increasingly grown dependent on the artificially intelligent machines and used them for innumerable applications. The riveting question is – are these bots fully dependable? If not, what makes them vulnerable, and is there a way to strengthen them?

Common security risks in robotics

It is safe to say that automation is the way for modern-day enterprises to move forward, as it makes processes both effective and efficient. Today, robots are counted in millions as far as industrial use is concerned. Hence, it is crucial to understand the most common security vulnerabilities associated with them, some of which have been mentioned below:

  • Altering the production outcome – faults are injected into the robot’s system which makes it behave abnormally.
  • Causing physical damage – the physical equipment is damaged which makes the bot lose control and harm its environment.
  • Halting production – the turnaround time (to recover from the attack) is too high to avoid a halt in production.
  • Unauthorized access – an attempt is made to steal data from the robot’s system by gaining remote (and unauthorized) access.

Damage control

The reasons for a robotic system to have vulnerabilities can be many, ranging from faults during production to poor maintenance. However, there are both simple and complex ways by which these risks can be averted. The least that developers should follow is to implement Secure SDLC and properly checked encryption systems while producing the bots. There are some components of building security around a piece of robotic equipment or process. They are:

  • A standard mechanism for digital identity and access management of the equipment or process.
  • Identification of data involved and following protocols for data encryption, usage, and privacy.
  • Managing the ecosystem to increase the resilience to detect and react to risks.
  • Securing the product using threat modeling and vulnerability identification.
  • Security operations such as Threat Exposure Management (TEM) and Threat Detection Response (TDR).

The best practices of cybersecurity must be observed before, during and after the robot is deployed. This shall create the four key elements attached to building trust within the robotics platform:

  1. Traceability
  2. Integrity
  3. Confidentiality
  4. Control

As part of maintenance, the software upgrades and patch maintenance procedures must be carefully supervised. Lastly, users should have a response plan ready at all instances to ensure that the recovery time and damages caused in the event of an attack are minimized.

About the author

Subham Paul

Subham is a technology enthusiast with keen interests in cybersecurity, automation, data analytics, and information systems. A Computer Science engineer and a former web developer, he is currently pursuing his MBA at IIT Kharagpur. His other interests lie in writing and singing.

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