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Robotics is an integrated branch of science and engineering that deals with the creation, operation, design, and applications of robots. The sensor feedback, information processing, and computer systems are controlled with the help of robotics. It is developed to substitute human labor and clone human actions. The robotic system provides data and intelligent services by connecting with their surroundings, through aids such as human interferences, sensors, and actuators. They deal with various complexities like intelligent algorithms, information processing, dispatching, hardware control, and safety reliability.

The transformation of robotics has ranged from a remote-controlled system to humanoids. With the advanced changes and new inventions, comes higher risk. The robots perform various tasks in sectors like business organizations, medical, household, and security systems.

The cybersecurity issues in robots occur due to various reasons:

The cyber-criminals usually target the insecure communication process that occurs between the robots and the users. Hackers or cyber-criminals hack the unstable communication link to access sensitive information.

The various authentication issues in the robotic system allow cybercriminals to hack the robotic systems. Security system failure in the robotic system enables hackers to access the features of the robotic system, without using a valid password or username from the remote locations. Lack of encryption in the robotic system exposes the sensitive data to the cybercriminals.

Cyber-criminals alter the robotic features if the robotic system has a weak default configuration. The potential hackers gain access to the programmable features of the robotic systems and modify them if any insecure configuration is found in the robotic system.

Types of Robotics security attacks

The robots are an embedded system that is vulnerable to several cyber-attacks. The cyber-attacks on the embedded systems are classified based on the target layer of the integrated system architectures, which are as follows:

Hardware Attacks

The hardware attacks are the type of security attacks that robotic systems are vulnerable during both manufacturing and usage. Various types of hardware attacks are found, like hardware Trojan, hardware backdoors, fault injection, eavesdropping, and hardware modification attacks. Reverse engineering the components of the robotic system during mass production allows the cyber-criminals to add hardware Trojan into the system. The hackers install the hardware level backdoor or kill switches to obtain access to the robotic system. The robots are then attacked during the maintenance process.

Firmware/Operating system attacks

The flash memory of the robotic system contains the codes of an embedded system; this allows the organization to update the operating system (OS) remotely through the internet connection. The ability to update the robotic system’s operation system, firmware, and device drivers provide cyber-criminals with the opportunity to attack the robotic systems.

The operating system (OS) present in the robotic system is vulnerable to cyber-attacks, such as the execution of arbitrary code, root-level access to the system, and denial of service. The attackers alter the operating system of the robotic system and gain full control of the device. Once the cyber-criminals enter the embedded system, they plant the malware on the robotic devices that turn the machines into the BOTS.

Application Attacks

The robotic system includes software applications to perform several tasks. The common types of attacks on software applications are software Trojans, worms, viruses, and buffer overflow. The malware installed on the system allows the cyber-criminals to collect data and to spread the malicious code. The vulnerability in the software applications of the robotic system will enable cyber-criminals to control the robots.

Security Threats in the robotic system that are caused by hackers:

Controlling the robotic system: once hackers gain access to control the robotic system, they cause defects in the system leading to the data loss or malfunction of the robots, which causes significant losses to the company.

Physical Damage: after gaining access to the robotic system, hackers try to harm operators present in the system. The hackers use robots to change the security mechanism and damage the work cell.

Interruption of Process: the hackers suspend or alter the robotic process, which could threaten the operations.

Exfiltration of sensitive data: the security flaws in robots act as an access point to the cyber-criminals. The hackers use this vulnerability to steal sensitive customer data. The robotic security system should be protected against the various possible security breaches. The criminals transfer confidential data from the robotic system to multiple remote servers.

System Blockage: The robots are vulnerable to attacks like ransom-ware attacks, blocking the access to data and the entire system.

Methods to prevent hacking in Robotics

Security system: the organization can implement the secure software development life cycle (SSDLC) process while building a robotic system.

Factory Restore: the organization can provide the option to restore the robot to its original default state while developing the robotic system.

Secured supply chain: implementing the best cybersecurity practices by the developer or the organization stops the hackers from entering the robotic system.

Encryption: the data transmitted between the users and robots through the communication links need to be encrypted. The encryption of the link provides significant protection against cybercriminals.

Proper education: knowledge sharing on the cybersecurity to the developers or the staff working in the robotic system is essential to prevent security attacks.

Security audits/analysis: security audits can be carried out by the organization to know the status of the robots. A complete system analysis will help the developer to track security attacks in the robotic system.

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