by John Hitch
Recently, Elon Musk and dozens of other technocrats have stoked public fears about “killer robots” by petitioning the United Nations to ban autonomous
technology being used in (or as) weapons.
“We should not lose sight of the fact that, unlike other
potential manifestations of AI which still remain in the realm
of science fiction, autonomous weapons systems are on the
cusp of development right now and have a very real potential
to cause significant harm to innocent people along with
global instability,” said Ryan Gariepy, founder of Clearpath
Robotics, in a statement about the call to action.
While fighting machine-gun-toting cyborgs is a worthwhile
pursuit, are these tech leaders they overlooking the dangers
posed by industrial and consumer robots?
That’s a question being taken up by the lead researchers at
Seattle-based cyber security firm IOActive, Cesar Cerrudo and
Lucas Apa. In a recent paper, “Hacking Robots Before Skynet,”
the team warns of the impending vulnerabilities popular robots
have to hackers and the potential threat they pose.
“Industrial robots are more widely adopted and are the most
dangerous since they work side-by-side with people, so there
is a genuine and important danger there,” the researchers
To demonstrate the threat, the team released a video showing how an otherwise harmless UB Tech Alpha 2 robot can be
hacked through an unprotected USB port to attack a tomato
with a screwdriver.