Analyzing Cyber-Physical Threats on Robotic Platforms

Sensors (Basel). 2018 May 21;18(5):1643. doi: 10.3390/s18051643.


Robots are increasingly involved in our daily lives. Fundamental to robots are the communication link (or stream) and the applications that connect the robots to their clients or users. Such communication link and applications are usually supported through client/server network connection. This networking system is amenable of being attacked and vulnerable to the security threats. Ensuring security and privacy for robotic platforms is thus critical, as failures and attacks could have devastating consequences. In this paper, we examine several cyber-physical security threats that are unique to the robotic platforms; specifically the communication link and the applications. Threats target integrity, availability and confidential security requirements of the robotic platforms, which use MobileEyes/arnlServer client/server applications. A robot attack tool (RAT) was developed to perform specific security attacks. An impact-oriented approach was adopted to analyze the assessment results of the attacks. Tests and experiments of attacks were conducted in simulation environment and physically on the robot. The simulation environment was based on MobileSim; a software tool for simulating, debugging and experimenting on MobileRobots/ActivMedia platforms and their environments. The robot platform PeopleBotTM was used for physical experiments. The analysis and testing results show that certain attacks were successful at breaching the robot security. Integrity attacks modified commands and manipulated the robot behavior. Availability attacks were able to cause Denial-of-Service (DoS) and the robot was not responsive to MobileEyes commands. Integrity and availability attacks caused sensitive information on the robot to be hijacked. To mitigate security threats, we provide possible mitigation techniques and suggestions to raise awareness of threats on the robotic platforms, especially when the robots are involved in critical missions or applications.

Keywords: cyper-physical systems; mobile robot; risk assessment; risk management; robotic platform; security; threats.