Factory Robots Are Easy to Hack, Researchers Show

In perhaps one of the scariest findings in recent months, researchers have discovered that factory robots can easily be hacked. This, of course, could have grave effects on entire industries and pose safety issues.

Cybersecurity firm Trend Micro found that numerous factory robots have a weak network security, using simple combinations of username and passwords that couldn’t even be changed; others didn’t even need a password. Imagine having an email account that didn’t need a password and then expands the implications of that on your personal security to robots that build cars and bikes and so on.

Trend Micro looked at robots from several firms: ABB, Fanuc, Mitsubishi, Kawasaki, and Yaskawa. The research paper indicates that not only do these have poor network security, but they aren’t faring much better when it comes to software protection. Some, the researchers said, even ran on outdated software.

Tens of thousands of robots using public IP addresses were discovered, which means they were extremely easy to hack.

Some of these industrial machines can receive commands from operators from afar, from a computer or phone. If the connection linking the two is not secure, hackers could use this vulnerability to hijack the machines.

They even went as far as to film a test on an ABB robot programmed to draw a straight line. Researchers reverse engineered the RobotWare control program and the connected software and had the machine draw a line that was 2 millimeters off. That may seem like a small deed, but when applied to certain products these robots are built to create, the slightest miscalculation can translate into a catastrophe.

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