Gabriel Aguiar Noury, robotics product manager at software company Canonical, explains how robotics companies can ensure safety is a top priority.

It is an exciting time for the robotics industry as more and more companies begin to appreciate the business value and the positive impact on sustainability that robots can bring to their businesses. For example, ABB’s PixelPaint uses a pair of high-precision robotic arms for two-color painting in the automotive industry. The approach eliminates the need for time-consuming masking and unmasking methods, improving team productivity and increasing the potential for custom paint schemes to better meet customer demand. It also increases durability, as it eliminates overspray for the benefit of the environment.

Investments in industry are also growing, with global investments expected to reach 210 billion dollars by 2025. This is more than double the figures for 2020. A booming industry with the constraints imposed by covid-19 .

As investments increase, so does the competition between robotics developers and manufacturers, as they battle to provide customers with ever more impressive functions to use. To support this, many companies are building robots using the Robot operating system, the standard open source framework for developing robotic applications. However, there is one key area of ​​robotics development that they must prioritize in the race to bring their products to market, and that is safety. If security is neglected, manufacturers put their data at risk. In addition, the physical security of customers can be compromised if a hacker takes control of a robot and damages people or infrastructure. By addressing security risks, businesses can ensure they are protecting themselves and the customers they serve.

Safety from the start

As the demand for robots increases, it can be tempting to rush into the development phase and ship robots quickly. In doing so, companies risk not securing bots from the start and will be faced with the task of trying to modernize security measures, which ultimately becomes a tedious task. It also causes downtime for the user and can have a negative impact on the image and reputation of the company.

A similar approach was taken with IoT security when the tech industry was too late to focus on it, and many devices came with weak password protection and a path and update of the network. inefficient system. The fate of security in IoT and robotics is closely linked to the emergence of the robotic Internet of Things (IoRT), where robots can monitor events, merge sensor data from various sources in its network. , use this data to determine the best course of action and then act to control objects in the physical world. As an industry, the tech sector has overlooked the need for strict security measures for IoT, and we need to make sure the same doesn’t happen with robotics.

It starts with a proactive, tight security strategy that ensures there are sufficient levels of protection in place. For example, just having a password in place won’t be enough to keep hackers out. Multi-factor authentication methods should be implemented to ensure that a business is doing everything possible to protect its sensitive data. It could also make privilege escalation more difficult for attackers. Even using an operating system with a containerized architecture could guarantee that attackers will operate in a sandbox.

But businesses can’t just implement security measures and get their job done. Regular risk assessments should be performed to identify, analyze and assess the risk to ensure that the cybersecurity controls they have chosen are still appropriate. Without it, a business can waste time, effort and resources. Ultimately, a robot is another networked device within an organization that should be included in risk assessments and corrected as necessary. Security maintenance is the minimum requirement to reduce vulnerabilities. If robot software in a manufacturing or retail line is not maintained, sooner or later attackers can grab it and possibly use it to gain access to the device itself, and potentially to other business assets.

The role of regulation

A big step forward in ensuring that safety is a high priority in the development of robotics should also involve the robot operating system (ROS). ROS isn’t just software, it’s an international community of developers, academics, and engineers who have made it their mission to make robots better. As a result, the robotics field has a huge pool of talent at their fingertips to tap into the optimization of security protocols, but it is not currently taking advantage of it. If this were the case, the community could help each other identify and report vulnerabilities, improve existing code by resolving security issues, improve writing of new code, ensure that contributions from less reliable parties are reviewed, suggest ways to strengthen measures, monitor and propose secure design principles, and apply recommendations from cybersecurity frameworks.

Regulations can also be put in place to add an extra layer of security. While there are no regulations when it comes to cybersecurity in robotics, depending on the field, robotics companies must comply with different security regulations. For example, in the financial industry, companies must adhere to PCI standards. For ROS within CIS, there is a benchmark for Melodic ROC that runs on Ubuntu 18.04. It contains over 200 recommended parameters for safe operation of ROS.

Regulations should not be restrictive either, innovation-driven regulation, based on the collective views of developers and users within the community, can help spur the development of open source robotic security. As an example, the cybersecurity laws proposed by the UK government should cover the connected devices that make up the IoT, but while this regulation is aimed at everyday users, the same must be created for robotics. Even though the regulations are about IoT, it is worthwhile for robotics companies to obey the same laws to keep their connected products safe.

Safety must come first

The robotics industry needs to take safety seriously. While this is a promising time as investment and competition increase, those working in the heart of the zone cannot lose sight of security in an attempt to speed up the development process to meet demand.

While robotic security can be a complex subject, the most important thing for businesses to remember is to ensure that security protocols and hardening techniques are in place from day one. While the possibilities that bots can bring to a business are endless, they will soon be brought to a halt if not properly secured and businesses face a potential security breach. The ramifications of a robot security breach are huge and have the power to destroy a business. From data leaks to physical damage to people and production lines, a breach would negatively impact everyone involved in the production and consumption of robots. For businesses to reap the true benefits of robots, security strategies must be implemented, reviewed and maintained early in development.