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Home Robots May be the Next Target for Hackers

Surveillance bots could be turned against their users, researchers say.

A paper published recently by researchers at the University of Washington shows that several commercial home robots–essentially small, wheeled bots with cameras, microphones and other audio-visual surveillance features–are not as secure as their owners might think. The researchers studied 2008 models of the Erector Spykee, and WowWee’s RoboSapien and Rovio robots and found security holes that include unencrypted audio-visual streams, unencrypted usernames and passwords for accessing and controlling the bots, and tricks for taking over the robots remotely.

The researchers say on their website:

[These vulnerabilities] mean that someone might be able to drive your robot around your home, look around the house, listen in on conversations, and knock over small objects.

Since few people have personal robots it’s hardly a major threat. But the researchers point out that better security and privacy safety measures will need to be taken as home robots become more common. To stay protected, they recommend keeping networks and robot control encrypted, avoiding remote access, and turning off the robots when they’re not in use.

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