Monday, May 21, 2018 by David Williams
Now that the world has entered the age of IoT (Internet of Things), many kinds of traditionally offline devices have begun to go online. Seemingly normal and sometimes non-electronic devices are being turned into “smart” gadgets nowadays, and that exposes them to dangerous attacks from unscrupulous individuals. Is there anything that can be done to prevent these from happening?
A team of researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology thinks that they may have found a potential solution. It comes in the form of a tiny robot, and they’re calling it simply Honeybot. The robot is described as something that is small enough to fit right inside an empty shoe box, but also capable of guarding large facilities from the attacks of hackers.
Honeybot, with its four-wheeled design, is said to possess the ability to lure in so-called digital troublemakers, and stop their attacks on industrial facilities. Based on an online report about it, Honeybot’s main feature is its capacity to fool any would-be attackers into sharing their valuable information, which can then be gathered by cybersecurity experts. From this, it seems that the name Honeybot was derived from the term honeypot, which is a term used in computing that means a security mechanism meant to not only detect and deflect, but also – if possible – counter any attempts at unauthorized system use.
According to Raheem Beyah, a Motorola Foundation Professor and interim chair of the Steve W. Chaddick School in Georgia Tech’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, robots now play a key role in an industry that is largely vulnerable to attackers. “Robots do more now than they ever have, and some companies are moving forward with, not just the assembly line robots, but free-standing robots that can actually drive around factory floors,” he said. “In that type of setting, you can imagine how dangerous this could be if a hacker gains access to those machines.”
In Beyah’s view, hackers could – at minimum – cause harm to whatever products that are being produced. He is of the opinion that if it is a large enough robot, then it could destroy parts of the assembly line. And in the worst-case scenario, it could even cause injury or death to any humans that might be in the vicinity. (Related: Would you allow an Amazon robot inside your house? They’ve patented a “postman” bot to unlock doors for delivery, pickup.)
Honeybot’s work appears to be cut out for it: When hackers finally gain access to it while it’s being used as a decoy, then they will inadvertently leave behind precious information that can be used by companies to strengthen their network security. Since it can be monitored and even controlled online, it’s quite intuitive. And unlike many other remote-controlled security robots, it allows attackers to “enter” the system while basically turning everything against them in the end.
It is said that in a factory setting, a Honeybot could be placed in just one corner, waiting for any hackers to access it before coming to life. That would then serve as an indicator that a malicious actor has decided to target the facility. But instead of being useful for any attacks, it will simply follow certain commands that are in fact harmless to the operations. So far, this method seems to be working perfectly.
In theory, a full assortment of Honeybots could probably be deployed in most large facilities and wouldn’t hamper operations at all. And if there are any attacks from hackers on the way, they’ll be ready to counter them as soon as they hit.
Read more about the future of robot-based security in Robots.news.