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What Happens When Good Robots Go 'bad'?

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A study by University of Washington researchers led by doctoral student Tamara Denning calls attention to the possibility of household robots being hacked by malevolent parties and reprogrammed for nefarious purposes. Such purposes could include psychological attacks, spying, and vandalism.

Denning and colleagues examined three commercially available household robots, and discovered that all three had the potential of being hijacked. "The main concern was in terms of threats to the owners' privacy, such as spying and eavesdropping," Denning notes. "Someone could log into the robot remotely and then they could drive the robot around the home and look and listen." The researchers also determined that remotely controlled robots could be used to damage or destroy fragile objects, or cause psychological distress by placing objects on the floor in such a manner as to communicate a threat or an insult, to name one example.

Robotics developer Emilie Kopp says it is more likely that hackers would compromise household robots out of a desire for bragging rights rather than out of criminal intent. "It's very similar to computer security, the way that users of desktop computers have to worry about spam and malware," Denning says. "One possible trajectory is that people will have to think about security with their home robots, as well."

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Abstracts Copyright © 2009 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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