Safety, integrity, accuracy - the three terms are the ultimate objectives of an industry employing robots. From Beijing's driverless subway to Kenya's phone-based finance, robots play a vital role in leading the world.
However, with the immense rise in utilization of robots, the world is also seeing a risking growth in threats and cyberattacks on robots resulting in stolen data, corrupted machines, and loss to the production line.
A collaboration between Politecnico di Milano (POLIMI) and the Trend Micro Forward-Looking Threat Research (FTR) Team recognizes the dangers the robotic world is getting into thanks to the cyberattacks robots are prone to encounter.
The research found some of the leading barriers to industrial robot security are outdated software, weak OSs and libraries, vulnerable cryptographic libraries, and unreliable authentication systems.
When it comes to employing robots in industries, defective, modified, or manipulative machines can result in greater harm. There is a significant need to strengthen robot security to protect sensitive data and the production chain.
Grab a paper and pen as this guide is going to reveal 11 best practices to follow to improve factory robot security . First, we'll go through some of the most common yet extremely dangerous cyberattacks industrial robots are subject to, and then you'll learn some of the best approaches to avoid those attacks.
So, without further ado, let's dive right in!
Various Types of Cyber Attacks
According to research done by Brown University, up to 100 exposed ROS systems throughout the world were at high risk of attacks. Out of those 100 systems, 19 were fully operating robots risking confidential data and allowing hackers to monitor camera feeds and give input to machines.
Thus, cyberattacks from hackers are likely to happen if security measures are ignored. Some other reasons for risks and threats in robots are
- old, not up-to-date software
- weak authentication systems
- embedded credentials
- insecure communications
- unstable network and component isolation
Since criminals and hackers are always chasing sensitive data (company's financial details, credit card information, personal data, etc.), robots in a factory are at greater risk of attacks.
Typically, the following are some of the ways hackers may corrupt or manipulate a factory robot security .
Attack 1: Control Parameter Modification
Robots are automated, programmable machines, and in a control parameter modification attack, the hacker alters the values controlling a robotic device. Thus, the robot may receive faulty input resulting in a corrupted output (unexpected movements, inaccurate working, etc.).
The hacker can also access sensitive data stored on the device by making the robot defective and overpowering its security measures. He may destroy the data and/or replace it with faulty, misleading information, causing great harm to the industry.
Attack 2: Calibration Parameter Modification
Calibration refers to the measurement technique of assigning value to a device's response in comparison to the predetermined reference standards. When a robot is connected to the system the first time, its sensors are calibrated.
The controller receives this information after sensitive data is stored on the machine. A hacker may alter the calibration parameter, thus, manipulating the robot's functionality to scan and detect, resulting in danger to others, or worse, death.
Attack 3: Production Logic Modification
End-to-end encryptions in a robot protect the data between a sender and receiver. Since robots work with other devices, the communication between the two can be altered drastically by a hacker in between if the sent input is not cryptographically strong.
The hacker may alter commands or entirely corrupt a task causing great harm to the production line. Furthermore, confidential projects are at greater risk, especially if the data is not protected by advanced technologies.
Attack 4: Robot's Signal Modification
In this attack, the hacker messes with the signals of a robotic device, causing the machine to send faulty input. Consequently, the management application may receive incorrect alerts, wrong commands, and inaccurate signals from running robots. If left undetected, the malware and worms corrupting machines can shut down the entire production line.
Attack 5: User-Perceived Robot State Modification
A robot's state refers to the standard of its conduct; it may include the robot's orientation, position, velocity, or other collection of values defining the device's motion through time. A robot may be in any state, depending on the workflow.
When a hacker modifies the user-perceived robot state, the status information of the robot is manipulated. As a result, the control management or the operator on the other end remains ignorant of the true status of the robot.
If left unchecked, a robot's status attack can be hazardous for everyone since an undetected robot's position can harm anyone and the production line.
Attack 6: Robot State Modification
After manipulating the user-perceived robot state, the hacker's next step is to send faulty input to the device. It can result in losing control, harming the operator, and even causing deaths if the device continues receiving destructive commands.
Additionally, the hacker may try to destroy the surroundings as much as possible, including the destruction of the device itself. Such an unfortunate event may lead to extreme loss of life, machinery, and production chain.
Industrial Robot Security - 11 best Practices to Follow
Since robots are programmable machines, their coding is prone to cyberattacks and data stealing. As mentioned earlier, the hacker may try to alter control or calibration parameters, modify logic, temper with the robot's signals or status.
Therefore, it is equally important to know which practices to follow to secure the robotic devices.
And the following are the best ways to strengthen industrial robot security.
The robotics industry is always on the go, and the news is full of astonishing technological developments in artificial intelligence.
The addition of new features now and then makes industrial robots meet modern requirements. Yet, simultaneously, it also renders buyers a list of the latest specifications to consider.
A comprehensive understanding of the field saves you from cyber-attacks and other accidental events when looking to enhance industrial robot security .
Henceforth, the best practice is to prioritize the features required and cyber security specifications to reach the optimum expected functionality in the future. Security features hold equal significance when considering speed, efficiency, speed, and other factors.
Industrial robots are a costly but long-lasting investment. Cyber security is always at risk with delicate data passing between various devices.
Especially when it comes to communications, the "man-in-the-middle" attack is increasingly common. Also known as monster-in-the-middle/machine-in-the-middle/person-in-the-middle, it actively "eavesdrops" while data is exchanged between devices.
By inserting himself between the sender and the receiver (the robot and another device/app in this case), the hacker can corrupt the communication between the two parties.
The independent connections duplicate the exact conversation between the sender and receiver, giving them a faulty belief of secure communication. Yet, in reality, the hacker monitors the entire data the whole time.
Thus, sneaking malware can cause miscommunication between the devices resulting in harmful commands, unexpected accidents, and severe damage to the robot and processed work.
One of the principal reasons for the "man-in-the-middle" attack is the poor communication security between the robot and data sender/receiver. And thus, the best practice to avoid the MITM attack is to ensure the incorporation of E2EE (short for end-to-end encryption) in your robot.
Since in MIMT, only the receiver can decrypt the data sent, cryptographically strong communication will secure both parties (sender and receiver), and data exchange will be protected from manipulation by a third party.
Knowing about the specs gives you a fair idea of when to consider an upgrade since good maintenance directly correlates with the maximum utilization of the robot.
Mechanical failure, power outages, software difficulties - all are responsible for the robotic malfunction. Unscheduled downtimes can lead to costly repairs; unnoticed flaws can result in injuries and harm both the workers and the machine itself.
Thus, considering the maintenance plan of an industrial robot plays a vital role in strengthening its cyber security given a maintained and well-functioning, a secured robot will have fewer risks of attacks.
Even a minor mistake can lead to system failure if the fault lies in the running software. Overcoming industrial robots' security threats depends dramatically on up-to-date software, for vulnerable operating systems are more prone to cyber-attacks.
Software issues in industrial robots are alarming, and often debugging won't help either. Since the software is less reliable than hardware, a weaker authentication system will make it even more threatening.
Conversely, technological advancements equip the robot with strengthened security to combat attacks and detect malware. It is always best to look for cryptographic libraries and the latest software updates to enhance factory robot security . Default, unchangeable credentials also put the software functionality at risk and should be sidestepped to avoid the robotic crackdown.
An integral component in industrial robotics' security is isolation, as it's vital to command robots on isolated networks. However, even more important is the reliability and security of the network, for robots receiving data from unsecure networks can easily be hacked.
Another reason to look for functional isolation is to combat non-safety dangers. Ground differences are a significant cause of transmission errors. Hence, an isolation device can inhibit the transmission of DC and unintended AC currents during data transfer between the input and output.
Simultaneously, an isolation robot can also block a common-mode voltage, which increases the security as the only measured signal will be allowed to pass through the isolation barrier.
Authentication is the top-most security measure to ensure the data being sent and received is protected. The assurance and validation of a user's identity can block unregistered attempts and reduce the risks of cyberattacks.
Often when the need for established user identity and proper authorization is ignored, the result is a complete shutdown of the production line. Thus, verifying a user's identity serves as a precautionary measure to protect robots from getting hacked.
Also, besides robots, devices connected to the robotics or those sending input or receiving outputs from robots should be secured with a user identity and password for each individual member. When only the authenticated users are granted access to delicate data, networks and databases will be highly secured.
Data segmentation refers to splitting and classifying similar data into various groups defined by predetermined parameters. It is an effective approach to group large-sized data into small-sized categories and increases workflow efficiency.
In robotics, segmentation refers to improved security by grouping sensitive data into layers of protection that authenticated users can only access after a multiple-source verification. A leading security factor is not just user authentication but multiple verification measures that ensure double or triple data protection against malware and viruses.
Since the world is growing fast with secured ways becoming old with each passing second, data encryption and decryption is at greater risk given a minor worn can work its way to data. Hence, data segmentation is essential for confidential purposes and industry robots' security .
Testing may seem obvious, but it plays a crucial role in determining robotic security. Periodic security analysis can help understand the faults and bugs running in the software, which, if left undetected, can lead to worse damage.
Also, programmable, automated robots are prone to faults and errors, and the primary reason is sneaking malware. Accidental crashes and robots not working on commands display a defective behavior and can be avoided with periodic testing.
With timely detection, you can take precise measures to clean the device of further damage. If the principal cause behind faulty behavior was an attempted cyberattack, early detection could uncover potential flaws in the connections or authorization, leading to required software updates and improved security measures.
Experiencing performance issues in most devices is a signal someone is trying to attack the entire operating system. Like network isolation, it is equally crucial for organizations to keep mechanical components isolated from each other in terms of connection.
Still, since data exchange is inevitable, software-based human safety comes into the dangerous spotlight. No matter how secure the connections, the non-isolation between components can risk threats and attacks.
Thus, your first approach should be securing both the robots and software-based human safety by keeping the two separated from each other as best as possible. Also, components given more exposure are more prone to bugs, malware, and hacking, so creating
authenticated networks, each with secured connections, can save the compromised functionality later.
Perfect scanning and detailed mapping are vital features of robots, but precision sensors can do much more. When it comes to factory robots' security , modern-day robots are equipped with sensitive sensors to detect any unusual measurement resulting in timely capture of corrupt input.
Similarly, the latest technology in robots also covers precise measurement regarding input. Thanks to advancements in machine learning, robots can make decisions based on collective data and, with sharp sensors, identify if a hacker decides to sneak in.
Thus, artificial intelligence can detect unfamiliar commands and gestures not encoded in their operating system and block hackers' attacks better than old robotic generations.
Data Flow Testing
This type of testing is concerned with authentication and authorization. Timely verification of whether only the authorized users can access data or malware has sneaked into the system can save confidential data from getting leaked to hackers.
Safety controls are necessary, but to ensure they work properly is even more vital. Thus, conducting data flow tests and analyzing reviews is another reliable approach to secure industrial robot cyber security.
Our Final Words
Industrial robots are machines that can function, autonomously operate, move around, and rotate along with many exes. The primary purpose of robots is to perform several tasks practically impossible for humans.
Whether it is a hand-guide robot, serial manipulator, or another movable or static robot, they are capable of receiving inputs and storing data. Aerospace, automotive, beverage, consumer goods, e-commerce, electronics, and food are popular industries employing industrial robots.
Human errors, improper installation, mechanical errors, and control errors are common failures in robotics. However, the most threats and risks imposed on robots are by unauthorized access of the machine.
While hacking robots may include tempering the signals or status of a robot, altering its control or calibration parameters, or modifying its production logic, sensitive data, physical security, and production chain is in danger.
Henceforth, factory robot security is essential to incorporate to avoid any mishaps. Some of the best practices to strengthen the robot's security are to stay up-to-date with recent technological advancements in the robotic industry.
Always ensure the existence of end-to-end encryption between the robot and data input devices. Both the network and component isolation are also significant in blocking cyberattacks.
Furthermore, timely maintenance and frequent testing also help identify any unfamiliar code of conduct and can save the machine from getting hacked later.
When it comes to delicate data, only authorized users with multiple-source verification should be granted access.
In a nutshell, always invest in the most recent robot software, keep up with timely updates and maintenance, and ensure protected user authorization for improved industrial robot security .