Next Gen Tech

Why Cybersecurity Is Crucial for Connected Robots

Alias Robotics CEO Endika Gil-Uriarte on Protecting Robots From Cyberthreats
Why Cybersecurity Is Crucial for Connected Robots
Endika Gil-Uriarte, CEO, Alias Robotics

As robots become increasingly integrated into operations across various sectors and connect to the internet, the threat of cyberattacks looms large. A compromised robot could not only disrupt operations but also cause accidents and loss of lives. Alias Robotics was founded on the premise that the burgeoning field of robotics requires robust cybersecurity solutions.

In an interview with Information Security Media Group, Endika Gil-Uriarte, CEO, Alias Robotics, discussed the artificial immune system they created for robots, which could protect them from zero-days and future attacks. Gil-Uriarte's expertise lies in tech interface and he is the architect behind Alias Robotics' Robot Immune System, or RIS.

Edited excerpts follow:

Tell us about Alias Robotics and its vision. What inspired you to establish this company?

Our company’s vision is to create dedicated security solutions for the robotics industry. Our star product is a kind of artificial immune system for robots that gets deployed into RIS.

We see a future where robots are ubiquitous in our lives, but for that to be feasible, they must be protected from cyberthreats. This is crucial as the next generation of robots will be more connected, whether to each other or the internet, raising significant cybersecurity risks.

What are the potential threats disrupting robotic operations? Can you cite some recent incidents?

The primary threats to robotic operations involve unauthorized access, data breaches, manipulation of robot operations, denial-of-service attacks and safety breaches. The technical details of weaknesses and vulnerabilities can be publicly found at our Robot Vulnerability Database.

These threats can lead to operational unplanned downtime, compromised sensitive information, safety hazards or even cyberterrorism. There have been instances where industrial robots were hijacked to perform tasks in a manner detrimental to the manufacturing process, such as mining cryptocurrencies and performing unsafe movements. These threats highlight the need for comprehensive cybersecurity measures such as RIS.

How are you securing robots with RIS?

Our RIS is designed to be an all-encompassing cybersecurity solution for robots and robotic components. It operates by embedding directly into the robot’s computing units or systems, providing inside-out protection for it.

RIS works through a modular architecture that includes a next-generation antivirus, intrusion prevention mechanisms and an artificial immune system that adapts and responds to threats dynamically, depending on each robot’s use case. This approach allows RIS to detect, block and log malicious activities while continuously adapting to face new threats as they emerge, thus maintaining the robot’s integrity and operational efficiency.

Can RIS be adapted to secure older/legacy OT systems, which are not updated due to the high cost associated with replacing components?

Yes, RIS can be adapted to secure older or legacy OT systems, which often lack vendor support. While these systems often pose unique challenges due to their outdated architectures and lack of native security features, RIS’s modular design allows us to customize solutions that cater to the specific needs of legacy systems.

In this regard, we recently received decisive support from the EU through the European Innovation Council, or EIC, accelerator instrument to improve features and bring RIS solution to market. Refining its key features is one of our top priorities.

Can you give us an update on the recently completed RESPECT and EIC project?

Alias Robotics is proud to participate in the RESPECT Project, an initiative led by the EU to enhance cybersecurity in healthcare robotics. Our role focuses on identifying and addressing vulnerabilities in autonomous mobile robots used in healthcare environments. We collaborated with partners across Europe to develop robust defense measures and establish secure management protocols for robotic fleets. Through this project, we aim to set new cybersecurity standards that ensure the safety and privacy of healthcare operations that involve robotics.

Alias Robotics has reached a significant milestone by securing prestigious funding from the EIC. This crucial EIC funding will accelerate our efforts in robotic cybersecurity, enhancing our research and development and market outreach alongside our project partners.

What are your plans for the future?

Alias Robotics plans to expand the application of RIS across more robotic platforms and delve into newer markets, including autonomous vehicles, and strategic markets such as healthcare.

We are also focusing on enhancing our AI-powered capabilities to better predict and neutralize threats before they can impact robot operations.

We continue to strengthen our cooperation with more robot manufacturers and participate in standard-setting bodies to help shape the future of robotic cybersecurity globally. Our road map includes further global international expansion (hotspots at Europe, APAC and North America) and deeper research into AI-driven cybersecurity solutions for next-generation robots.

About the Author

Brian Pereira

Brian Pereira

Sr. Director - Editorial, ISMG

Pereira has nearly three decades of journalism experience. He is the former editor of CHIP, InformationWeek and CISO MAG. He has also written for The Times of India and The Indian Express.

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