Robotics: With Great Technologies Come Great Vulnerabilities

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1Q 2018 | IN-5003

While the robotics market is expected to take off, concerns exist regarding the lack of security in place to ward off cyberattacks, which will only be further exacerbated by the interconnectedness of the technology.

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Robotics Climbing the Investment Charts


Advanced robotics applications are set to revolutionize certain market verticals that have already undergone major transformations due to the advent of the IoT. Massive implementations in industrial settings are estimated to reach US$26 billion by 2022. Commercial applications and collaborative robotics are estimated to reach US$4.4 billion and US$2.4 billion, respectively, within the same time frame. Robotics are steadily climbing the investment charts (more information is available in ABI Research’s market data Commercial and Industrial Robotics (MD-CIROBO-102). However, with great technologies come great vulnerabilities, and robotics is no exception to this golden rule of cybersecurity.

Cyclical Technology Challenges?


As with any major technology across the entire industry spectrum, ranging from connected cars all the way to payment systems, there are always groups of highly tech-savvy individuals who aim to break, or even worse, to weaponize, new technologies faster than organizations have a chance to adapt to them. Indeed, cyber-fraudsters work so fast that they manage to “break” new technologies within days of reaching the public, or before they even have a chance to do so. This includes hacking or abusing vulnerabilities of driverless vehicles, drones, autonomous systems, biometric devices, and many other technologies within the very first month, week, or even a single day they make it to enterprise, governmental, or consumer settings.

The technology hype usually places innovation, monetization, and usability on the top of the list, leaving security as an afterthought. In retrospect, this can be summarized as the natural reaction of most organizations to almost any new project. ABI Research predicts that, within the following years, robotics and AI applications will not only follow the exact same pattern, but perhaps even surpass expectations with a more spectacular show. 

Here's What We Think


Legal frameworks and standardization entities are also severely lagging behind and failing to address the security gaps to assist the organization themselves. A paper published by Lera, Llamas, Guerrero, and Olivera (2017) titled “Cybersecurity of Robotics and Autonomous Systems: Privacy and Safety” proposes that robotics, AI, and autonomous systems are destined to face the very same problematic issues and cybersecurity challenges that other IT and connected systems have suffered for decades.

As with advanced industrial systems, a compromised robotic system will have two system security challenges. The first relates to the virtual side of things (which relates to connectivity, communication, data processing, processes, etc.) and the second relates to the physical side of things (e.g., navigation, manipulation of physical objects, movement, etc.).

Speaking of “things,” ABI Research believes that these challenges will also expand to the position and hierarchical level of the robotic system in the interconnected web of the IoT. It should be noted that robots can act as higher-level IoT nodes and gateways tackling the tasks to collect, interpret, process, and transmit data from a wide spectrum of sensors, devices, and users. Should robots act also as highly sophisticated edge computing systems, pre-processing data prior to communication with overarching cloud platforms, then all aforementioned challenges will be greatly exacerbated.

These issues are not new in industry circles, but they have made an aggressive comeback due to recent technological strides, and are steadily brought to the spotlight by alliances and organizations like Trend Micro and the Robotic Industries Association (RIA). ABI Research offers more information on investments, trends, and opportunities regarding robotics.


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