Dr Nick Patterson, of Deakin University in Australia, has been widely quoted in the British tabloid press warning about - as the Daily Star puts it - the risk of “ultra-realistic sex robots being used by warped hackers to attack humans”:
“Hackers can hack into a robot or a robotic device and have full control of the connections, arms, legs and other attached tools like in some cases knives or welding devices. Often these robots can be upwards of 200 pounds, and very strong. Once a robot is hacked, the hacker has full control and can issue instructions to the robot. The last thing you want is for a hacker to have control over one of these robots! Once hacked they could absolutely be used to perform physical actions for an advantageous scenario or to cause damage.”
The quote from Dr Patterson doesn’t actually mention “sex robots”, but that hasn’t stopped the press from leading with headlines like these:
- “Sex robot armies: Fears hackers could create killer cyborgs and turn technology on punters”
- “Fears sex robots could be turned into ‘killer cyborgs’ with ‘knives or wielding devices’ if twisted hackers take control”
- “Experts warn that this sex robot could kill you if it’s hacked”, and “Caught with your pants down - Cyber security expert issues bizarre warning that sex robots could be easily hacked and made to kill their owners.”
The truth is, all you need is any robot that interacts with a human in the workplace or in the home. It doesn’t need to be a sex robot.
Of course, the image of armies of murderous sex robots much for a much more exciting headline. But that shouldn’t stop us from recognising that there is a threat posed by robotic devices if they are vulnerable to hackers, and that - in some cases - a compromised robot could endanger humans.
Take, for instance, the example of the domestic UB Tech Alpha 2 robot which researchers recently demonstrated contained vulnerabilities that could allow a malicious hacker to wield a sharp screwdriver around in a rather reckless fashion:
If you’re interested in hearing more about that, be sure to listen to this recent episode of the “Smashing Security” podcast where researcher Scott Helme discussed the threat:
Regardless of the tabloid hype, I’m not sure a sex robot really has to be that sophisticated to kill its intended target. For instance, a “female” sex robot would only have to be fitted with a jumbo pencil sharpener to do some pretty serious damage to a male target with kinky intentions, or just give you a particularly aggressive bear-hug.
Other “news” stories that have recently appeared in the Daily Star include “STUNNING Russian TV star who splashed £30,000 on boob job reveals she wants to be a NUN”, “Crocodile turns into a ‘SPEEDBOAT’ to annihilate impala casually hopping across a river”, and “Knickerless star exposes booty in flesh-flash exposé.”
If that’s your kind of thing, hunt for them yourself on the Daily Star’s website yourself. I don’t think I’ll link to them. Who knows what other unpleasantness lurks inside that seething hell-hole.