Researchers hijack teleoperated surgical robot: Remote surgery hacking threats

When could a denial of service attack have lethal consequences? It could be fatal if it is launched at a “crucial point” during a surgery which is being conducted over the Internet by a surgeon via a teleoperated robot.

When a surgeon cannot physically be in a specific location, but a robot could, then telesurgery could allow a surgeon to operate via a robotic system from a remote location; teleoperated surgical robots could be used to save lives in underdeveloped rural areas, locations affected by natural or human-caused disasters and battlefield scenarios. Yet security has not been a concern for telerobotic surgery, even though there is a 20% yearly increase in the number of robots sold. The authors of a recent research paper asked, “What if the computer systems for these robots are attacked, taken over and even turned into weapons?” They referenced Stuxnet as an example of what can happen when a cyber-physical system, aka embedded system, is targeted.

A team of bright minds from the University of Washington Departments of Electrical Engineering and of Computer Science and Engineering identified “a slew of possible cyber security threats.” During research supported by the National Science Foundation, they were able to “maliciously control a wide range of robots functions, and even to completely ignore or override command inputs from the surgeon.” But those aren’t the only attacks they demonstrated in “To Make a Robot Secure: An Experimental Analysis of Cyber Security Threats Against Teleoperated Surgical Robots.” They also found “that it is possible to abuse the robot’s existing emergency stop (E-stop) mechanism to execute efficient (single packet) attacks.”

Read the Full Article: Source – Computer World

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