Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Household Robots Do Not Protect Users' Security And Privacy, Researchers Say

Date:
October 9, 2009
Source:
University of Washington
Summary:
Robots equipped with wireless and sensing capabilities are available for use in the home. But the safety and privacy risks of these devices are not yet adequately addressed, according to a new study.

People are increasingly using household robots for chores, communication, entertainment and companionship. But safety and privacy risks of information-gathering objects that move around our homes are not yet adequately addressed, according to a new University of Washington study.

It's not a question of evil robots, but of robots that can be misused.

"A lot of attention has been paid to robots becoming more intelligent and turning evil," said co-author Tadayoshi Kohno, a UW assistant professor of computer science and engineering. "But there is a much greater and more near-term risk, and that's bad people who can use robots to do bad things."

He and colleagues discovered security weaknesses in three robots currently on the market. They presented the findings last week at the International Conference on Ubiquitous Computing in Orlando, Fla. Co-authors are UW graduate students Tamara Denning, Cynthia Matuszek and Karl Koscher and UW affiliate faculty member Joshua Smith.

During the past year the team ran tests to evaluate the security of three consumer-level robots: the WowWee Rovio, a wireless, buglike rolling robot marketed to adults as a home surveillance tool that can be controlled over the Internet and includes a video camera, microphone and speaker; the Erector Spykee, a toy wireless Web-controlled "spy" robot that has a video camera, microphone and speaker; and the WowWee RoboSapien V2, a more dexterous toy robot controlled over short distances using an infrared remote control.

The concerns the researchers uncovered with the wireless robots include the fact that:

  • The robots' presence is easily detected by distinctive messages sent over the home's wireless network.
  • The robots' audio and video streams can be intercepted on the home's wireless network or in some cases captured over the Internet.
  • Only some robots give an audible or other alert when a user logs on, letting people nearby know that someone new is accessing the data.
  • Only some robots periodically generate a noise or other signal when stationary, reminding people nearby that the robot is collecting data.

The authors also identified scenarios in which a robot might physically harm its owner or the home environment. While the risks today are relatively small, researchers say they believe the risks will become more serious as robots become more widespread.

"These are technologies that are being used in the home," noted Denning, a UW doctoral student in computer science and engineering. "The attacks here are very simple. But the consequences can be quite serious."

"In the future people may have multiple robots in the home that are much more capable and sophisticated," Denning added. "Security and privacy risks with future household robots will likely be more severe, which is why we need to start addressing robot security and privacy today."

The robots the researchers studied were purchased in or before October 2008. The researchers said they believe other robots now on the market offer a similar level of security.

Owners of household robots can do some simple things to significantly increase their security, researchers said, such as turning on encryption for a home wireless network, and disabling Internet access to the robot's controls.

Education is key, says co-author Matuszek, a UW doctoral student in computer science and engineering.

"Before they go and buy something people will typically go online and do some research," she said. "People know to look for small parts in children's toys, or look for lead paint. For products that combine more advanced technology and wireless capabilities, people should look at whether it protects privacy and security."

Researchers said they hope privacy will someday be on buyers' minds when they look at products, and that in the future electronic privacy and security could be included as a category in Consumer Reports and other product reviews.

The work was funded by the National Science Foundation and an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation research fellowship.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Washington. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Washington. "Household Robots Do Not Protect Users' Security And Privacy, Researchers Say." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 October 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091008161900.htm>.
University of Washington. (2009, October 9). Household Robots Do Not Protect Users' Security And Privacy, Researchers Say. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091008161900.htm
University of Washington. "Household Robots Do Not Protect Users' Security And Privacy, Researchers Say." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091008161900.htm (accessed August 29, 2014).

Share This




More Computers & Math News

Friday, August 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

JPMorgan Chase Confirms Possible Cyber Attack

JPMorgan Chase Confirms Possible Cyber Attack

Reuters - US Online Video (Aug. 28, 2014) Attackers stole checking and savings account information and lots of other data from JPMorgan Chase, according to the New York Times. Other banks are believed to be victims as well. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Spend 2 Minutes Watching This Smartwatch Roundup

Spend 2 Minutes Watching This Smartwatch Roundup

Newsy (Aug. 28, 2014) LG announces a round-faced smartwatch, Samsung adds 3G connectivity to its latest wearable, and Apple will reportedly announce the iWatch on Sept. 9. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Google Reveals Drone Delivery Program, 'Project Wing'

Google Reveals Drone Delivery Program, 'Project Wing'

Newsy (Aug. 28, 2014) Google has been developing a drone delivery system of its own, and it hopes to revolutionize how people view possessions with it. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Why Apple Might Add Mobile Payment Options To iPhone 6

Why Apple Might Add Mobile Payment Options To iPhone 6

Newsy (Aug. 28, 2014) A report by Wired suggests Apple's next iPhone will feature a mobile payment system and near-field communication. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins