Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Please Secure Your Robot: Part 1 of 5

Robo-ethics is important and we can spend time debating the merits of hardcoding Asimov's Laws into every positronic brain, but I believe these issues can wait until the singularity is a little closer. What we need to worry about right now the ethical use of teleoperated robots. Researchers and manufacturers have an ethical responsibility to provide robots that are secure and encourage good security practices on the part of their customers.

Just like your desktop computer, we need security for robots and this needs to happen now, not later.

Let's review some recent events
It is clear from these events that with the growth of mobile robotics and commercial UAVs the robotics field will be faced with security issues that could pose a serious setback to the future of the industry, however there are practical low cost incremental changes that can improve security and help minimize the damage of the inevitable incidents.

If someone is injured or killed by a robot it could be:
  • An unavoidable accident
  • Negligence on the part of the manufacturer
  • Intentionally caused by an authorized user
  • "Hackers"
Tele-operation for all it's possibilities can be a dangerous thing.

The primary goal of robot security should be to prevent accidents, injury and deaths. When that isn't possible data should be logged so that the guilty parties can be identified and charged in civil or criminal courts.

Since the early days of the Internet we have learned some painful lessons. We have learned that actual security, as opposed to security theater and security through obscurity, can be divided into three main areas, authentication, authorization and accounting. These topics will be covered in the following parts.

Thanks to Bruce Sterling and those who have learned to encrypt their telemetry for inspiration. Ryan Calo also has some good ideas about robotics laws.

No comments: