Robots have already flipped manufacturing industries on their heads in the last couple of decades. With the potential to revolutionize everything from the military and law enforcement to education, it’s vital to take stock of the security risks that come with increased automation.
Manufacturing companies are the second biggest target for ransomware gangs. If robots are vulnerable to attack, money-hungry criminals will find a way to disrupt factories and demand payment to restore systems.
Where exactly do the risks to robots and automation systems come from? We’re going to explore who is likely to exploit issues in system confidentiality, integrity, availability, and authentication.
Weak authentication procedures for accessing robotics systems can allow a disgruntled employee to leak data and code. Even model employees can be a threat if they don’t update passwords often or fall prey to a phishing attack. Even in robotics, humans can be the weak link.
Hackers want to cause disruption and bring down automated systems to make money. There is a range of ways they can exploit insufficient authentication processes and get around poorly designed security to take control of robots and demand a ransom.
Industrial espionage is a major concern. In 2022, the FBI and MI5 jointly warned of Chinese infiltration of US and British business interests – unsecured robotic systems and connections can be easily exploited to gain a competitive advantage.
Developers who work in robotics and automating systems may not have a strong background in cybersecurity and cryptography. It’s important that security is a primary concern and experts are brought into to work on code alongside traditional roboticists.
The end users of a robot can pose a security risk by not knowing how to operate it securely. This could be logging in with unsecured credentials, not using the right security tools, or not being aware of the confidential nature of the robots they’re using, leading to hacks and data leaks.
Reducing security risks in automation processes
There are a variety of points in the automation process where security risks can come in. As robots take over more and more tasks, it’s vital that everyone along the user chain works to increase cybersecurity.
Ensuring the right VPN configuration for your IoT devices will improve your security. What is VPN configuration? This will depend on the setup of your automation process, and your information security team can get it set up right.
Having the right knowledge within the business is also imperative to look after robotics security. Whether developing systems in-house or buying from external suppliers, secure connections need to be a priority, and making sure everyone is aware of the right way to connect and work with your robots should be an ongoing process.
Build in vulnerability monitoring across your automation pipeline. Your approach to robotics security should be proactive and able to detect threats – the goal of hackers can be disruption as much as data theft, as we saw with the JBS hack that disrupted food supply and Colonial Pipeline that caused fuel chaos in 2021.
Robotics security risks
Wherever systems connect, there will be vulnerabilities. This is as true for robotics and automation as any other technology so online security should be at the forefront of new processes and system designs.
Protection needs to be active at every level, from hardware to firmware and your own software integrations and the connections between everything your company uses.
Main image by Lenny Kuhne on Unsplash