Communication Vulnerabilities in Robots

Many robots rely on communication with either the user or the outside world, and these communication methods are vulnerable, particularly when tried and true security measures are not followed.

Robots communicate using a variety of methods, including ad-hoc networks or the Internet, Bluetooth for short-range connection of personal computing devices and phones, wireless sensors (such as the Tire Pressure Monitoring System in automobiles), and RFID for wireless communication.

Satellite and digital radio, as well as traffic status channels, are examples of long-distance communication channels where information is primarily received. Other channels for information transmission include crash reporting, anti-theft car tracking, vehicle diagnostics, and user convenience (e.g., GM’s OnStar). Long-range monitoring and communication capabilities in future robotic systems may be similar.

Passive Adversary Vulnerabilities – Communication channels can be used to passively gather information about a robot. This can be accomplished through packet interception or injection over a local network or the Internet. Search engines, like webcams, could potentially discover Internet-connected robots. Adversaries can gain more information by intercepting or eavesdropping on communication channels, such as which robots are active, what they are doing, where they are, or sensitive user information such as audio or video data from sensors or unencrypted usernames and passwords.

Active adversary vulnerabilities- these entail a more active adversary, such as intercepting legitimate network traffic and/or transmitting illegitimate traffic. Dropped messages are deleted and never reach their intended recipient. A replay attack occurs when intercepted messages are retransmitted later. Message spoofing is the transmission of illegitimate messages, which can be completely constructed or modified. A masquerade attack involves an adversary impersonating a legitimate party. When robot-recipient traffic is intercepted, a man-in-the-middle attack, also known as a double masquerade, occurs. Jamming or Denial of Service (DoS) attacks can also be used to close communication channels. DoS attacks flood a network with messages, preventing legitimate traffic from being handled properly.

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