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Security Experts Hack Teleoperated Surgical Robot


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Robotic surgical equipment.

Researchers are studying the issues, including security issues, related to the communications technology involved in telesurgery.

Credit: Technology Review

University of Washington in Seattle researchers are studying the issues associated with the communications technology involved in telesurgery.

The researchers have demonstrated how a malicious attacker can disrupt the behavior of a telerobot during surgery and even take over the controls.

They also have developed Raven II, a telesurgery robot that is dramatically smaller than previous systems, while achieving increased durability so it can be used in extreme environments. The robot runs on a single PC running software based on open standards, and communicates with the control console using a standard communications protocol for remote surgery. However, this communication takes place over public networks that are potentially accessible to the general public.

The researchers tested three different types of attacks to determine the security of the system. The first attack changes the commands sent by the operator by deleting, delaying, or re-ordering them. The second attack modifies the intention of signals from the operator, and the third attack is a hijacking that completely takes over the robot.

The researchers recommend using encryption to help protect the communications of the telesurgery system. "The use of encryption and authentication has low cost and high benefits to telerobotic surgery, mitigating many analyzed attacks," the researchers say.

From Technology Review
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