Industrial robots are improving in terms of capability and performance, and their use across manufacturing and associated industries where fast, accurate and repetitive work is required is growing fast.
The need for safety in such systems has been recognized for many years, and the increasing proximity of collaborative robots with human workers continues the need for safe working practices. As industrial robots become smarter, better connected and linked to the internet there are now increased risks from cyber security related threats that can undermine the safe use and deployment of robots, lead to intellectual property loss, production delays and possibly effect physical damage. The good news is that with an appropriate cyber security risk review, followed by product testing and the implementation of proportionate controls an organisation can be assured their industrial robots are operating in a safe and secure way.
This paper discusses the cyber security aspects of industrial robots and provides a way forward for manufacturers, system implementers and operators. It will bring together best practices from other industries and the broad experience from across TÜV Rheinland.
Undoubtedly robots have transformed the world of manufacturing and are set to impact the provision of other services and medical care in the same way. Industry 4.0 will continue to drive the adoption of robots in manufacturing, service robots will gain increasing usage around the home in support of aging populations and remote telemedicine robots will enable complex surgery to be undertaken in remote and maybe hostile environments. Like any complex electromechanical system robots are subject to cyber security threats that can impact their safe and secure functioning. No longer can a robot be considered safe if its cyber security risks haven’t been evaluated and addressed. Interconnected robots using common but unsecured internet protocols coupled with vulnerable operating systems that are rarely patched provide a huge surface area for attackers, and a significant challenge for defenders
What is a Robot?
The term robot was derived in the early 20th century from the Czech word robota, which means a serf or laborer. Originally meant as an anti-technology jibe the word has entered our current language to mean anything from a science fiction robot such as The Terminator through to the myriad of mechanical machines performing repetitive tasks on a production line. With such use in factories and facilities across the world humans have been usurped from many mundane and often dangerous tasks. For the purposes of this paper a robot is defined as ,a re-programmable, multi-functional manipulator, designed to move materials, parts, tools or devices by means of variable programmed movements, with the purpose of accomplishing different tasks” (Mark W. Spong, 2004)
Definitions and a standard classification of robots is still emerging. The International Standards Organisation (ISO) (ISO-Standard 8373:2012) groups robots into two broad classifications:
- Industrial. Defined as an automatically controlled, re-programmable multi-purpose manipulator, programmable in three or more axes, that can be either fixed in place or mobile for use in industrial applications
- Service. Defined as a robot that performs useful tasks for humans or equipment excluding industrial automation applications. Includes personal care robots such as mobile servants, physical assistants and person carriers (European Robotics Association, 2017)
- Additionally medical robots have been defined as a „robot or robotic device intended to be used as medical electrical equipment” (VIRK, 2017).
It is accepted that further refinement in terminology is ongoing; for example a robot has no end effector but a robotic system does. Further discussion of this is outside the scope of this paper.
One of the first uses of robots in manufacturing was in the early 1960s when General Motors used the Unimate robot to assist in vehicle production. Since then we have seen an ever-increasing use of robots across different areas of society beyond industry and manufacturing. It has been estimated that there are almost 2 million industrial robots in use across the world (Hagerty, 2015).
Robotics and Cyber Security
As with many products cyber security may often be an afterthought in the minds of robotic manufacturers. Cyber security may come low down a list of important areas to be considered, inevitably being eclipsed by new features, reduced cost and safety issues. The notion of designing in cyber security at the beginning of robot product development has not gained traction in many places, and indeed many users and consumers are more interested in product features, cost and functionality than cyber security. Unfortunately many people get seduced by the anthropomorphic nature of some robotic systems and start to „over think” the nature of robotic cyber security risk. Robots are a combination of mechanical structures, sensors, actuators, and computer software that manages and controls these devices like any other machinery (Morante, 2015) and need to be considered in such a way when evaluating cyber security risk. When considering robotics and cyber security the information security triad of confidentiality, integrity and availability is likely to be replaced with focused attention on availability and machine safety. Shutting down systems for security patches and updates, even if they are provided by manufacturers, takes planning and effort especially as industrial robots are assets to be fully utilized as any other. Of course confidentiality should not be ignored. The robotic process employed in a factory or the complex control software used to guide an autonomous or semi-autonomous robot has value–to both hackers and competitors and should be protected as such.
Threats and Risks to Robots
Robots and their associated supporting software and firmware can be undermined by attackers much as in any other system. Unfortunately in many cases, and certainly in the industrial context, such an attack could have implications for the safe operation of the robot in question.
As manufacturers strive to implement innovative features, for example allowing control of an industrial robot by using a smartphone instead of the teaching pendant (the handheld device used to instruct a robot) (Control Engineering Europe, 2011), there is an ever-growing need to build cyber security into the robot design and development phase.
For a committed and well-funded attacker, such as a nation state actor, access to industrial robot hardware and software for research purposes is easy. It is unlikely that a hobbyist hacker would have access to industrial robot hardware unless they can enter a manufacturing facility, vendor’s premises or gain remote access via Wi-Fi. Second hand industrial robots are available for purchase but this would need funding. Whilst not exceptionally expensive this provides another barrier to the hobbyist hacker, as does the size and weight of many industrial robots.
Industrial robot controller firmware is made freely available by some manufacturers from their websites (notably others will only provide supporting software to known customers). At the least this will enable a potential hacker to review software code and understand weaknesses without needing access to the associated hardware.
In contrast medical robots deployed in a clinical setting are often poorly secured physically as many hospitals are often open sites with 24-hour access to members of the public. And of course, service robots sold to members of the public are a prime target due to their physical accessibility.
Firmware and Software Attacks
Industrial robot firmware and supporting software may be loaded onto a local flash drive, hard drive or solid state media. Like all software it is susceptible to malware and poor coding practices that can lead to unforeseen cyber security issues.
Software and firmware deployed on robots is often left in an accessible state for engineering maintenance and support. This could be in the form of an open USB or RJ-45 port or maybe an open wireless connection weakly protected by a manufacturer’s default password. Access could be gained on the factory floor or in the deployed environment as physical security is often poor or non existent. Travelling maintenance technicians will usually have a supporting laptop for accessing a robot and to provide diagnostics or software updates. These laptops may not be securely configured and could access other websites or resources that could provide a route in for malware or an attack.
Robot Software Development
There are many languages that can be used to program a robot, ranging from proprietary languages used by industrial robot manufacturers to C#, .NET (as used by the Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio), Python (as used in Robot Operating System (ROS) main client libraries) and C++.
In addition ROS provides open source software that can be shared and propagated through the commercial and hobbyist robot community. Whilst the sharing and reuse of software code is a massive boon to developers it also means that security flaws and issues can be copied and inadvertently used repeatedly across the ecosystem. As ROS does not have any security features by default solutions based on the platform need to be secured in other ways. Recognizing this, the development of SROS, a secure variant is in progress.
Many robots are configured to provide communications to external parties such as a factory control system, a local ecosystem of co-robots, smartphones or a vendor’s cloud hosted monitoring solution.
Remote access via a manufacturers service box often uses wireless communications including cellular networks enabling remote access by the vendor. In some cases this access may be without the operator’s knowledge. Although undoubtedly designed to improve the customer experience such hidden connections can present a risk that has not been captured or considered by a manufacturing plant operator.
As we have seen data confidentiality may not have been a consideration in the design of the robot resulting in plain text, weakly encrypted or unsecured communications between systems. Data security, during an ephemeral task, may not be a major concern. In some cases the fact that an industrial robot may have rotated 27 degrees rather than 30 degrees may not matter. What does matter is that the communication channel is insecure such that it could act as a conduit for delivering an attack on other systems or production logic could be interfered with.
On the other hand, tampering with closed-loop controls or open-loop parameters that result in a robotic arm moving from 27 degrees to 30 degrees could have a huge impact on manufacturing quality or even injure a nearby worker.
Robots and Identity and Access Management
Identity and access management, where the correct user is given the correct access to a system at the correct time, is a key foundation of cyber security. Well implemented it provides a capability for auditing and accountability for users, processes and other systems. Poor implementation of IAM could result in untrained, inexperienced operators making changes to an industrial robot that could introduce manufacturing or safety issues. This is often seen in poor practices such as sharing and displaying access credentials (username and password) on a sticky note attached to a robot or worse still removing all need for users to submit appropriate credentials. And of course this is not helped by poor implementation of basic access controls by manufacturers. The use of default passwords by manufacturers, not changed when a robot has been installed, will often provide an easy route for attackers. With the growth in Internet of Things (IoT – the myriad of devices and hardware that connects to the internet) hackers have already corralled devices into a „botnet”, something that could have been largely prevent by forcing users to change the default administration password on setup (Newman, 2016).
Data Privacy and Robots
Industrial robots are unlikely to contain personal data. In contrast with the growing interest in robots for medical care and surgery it is inevitable that these devices will process personal and sensitive data such as health related details. In most jurisdictions both personal and healthcare data is protected under local, national or sector specific laws due to their sensitive nature.
Special attention will need to be paid by manufacturers and users of this equipment to ensure they do not breach patient confidentiality requirements. In some countries such robot manufacturers would not be able to enroll into nationalized healthcare networks, share patient data or provide a service until they meet stringent information security requirements.
Safe Disposal and Recycling
Disposal of industrial robots or control equipment that contain sensitive data should be thought through. During robot decommissioning any resident non-volatile memory should be destroyed or forensically overwritten in cases where such sensitive data may be present and the risk warrants it. Simply deleting such data will not provide an effective defense against criminals who can trivially recover this data for their own use. G-code (a numerical control (NC) programming language) left on a decommissioned robot may tell a competitor something about a process used by the previous owner
Functional Safety and Robotics
The worlds of functional safety, robots and cyber security are now inextricably linked as an industrial robot can no longer be deemed safe if it is not secure. But how does functional safety compare to cyber security?
- Functional safety is the defense against random and systematic technical failure to protect life and environment.
- Cyber security is the defense against negligent and willful actions to protect devices, facilities and data.
Industrial robots are often physically separated in a cage or work cell,
away from their human co-workers. Protected by various safety interlocks such cages provide a physical or light curtain safety barrier between humans and machines. The development of collaborative industrial robots (co-bots) has seen this separation diminish increasing the chances of safety failings directly resulting in worker injuries. For example if a robot work cell uses software to implement a cage safety zone then this could be tampered with to impact its operation. In 2015 a worker entered a robot safety cage in a car manufacturing plant and was killed (Byrant, 2015).
Service and medical robots are normally in close proximity to their human operators or human clients and patients. The need for exceptional functional safety in these cases is necessarily paramount.
A robot that meets an appropriate safety integrity level (SIL) due to a rigorous functional safety design and implementation could still be compromised by a cyber-attack or negligent actions. Industrial robot control systems may be well designed and implemented but if the controller is not secured using basic measures it could be tampered with or run-time control loop parameters could be altered potentially resulting in safety measures being bypassed.
Cyber Threat Analysis
Unlike threats to safety, cyber security threats are developing, evolving and morphing continuously. In this context a threat is anything either originating from a technical software bug or human criminal gang that can compromise the availability and safety of an industrial robot system. As hackers of all types take an increased interest in robotics these threats need to be understood and then processed in a way that identifies the most important issues based on their risk to the business.
This is cyber threat analysis and for many operating in the world of industrial robotics as either a vendor or operator could be a major change to the way they manage business related risk.
Most cyber threat analysis processes include many steps. Initially a scope is established that defines what information is needed to improve an understanding of threats. For example, is there a particular make of robot that is deployed in a plant? If so threats to these would be of interest. Data can then be collected from a variety of places including open source information on industry and government security forums. This data then needs to be analysed to further draw out relevant information that impacts business risk.
Tying together disparate snippets of data to produce actionable threat intelligence can be complex but will help identify areas that the business needs to act upon. It is only by efficiently and effectively processing threat data that cost effective and proportionate action can be taken to protect an industrial robot.
The NIST Cybersecurity Framework (CSF) is based on 5 areas of functionality: Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond and Recover. It was originally created for industrial control systems and critical national infrastructures but provides a model to understand the contextual risk of using a process or system such as a robot. It enables the overall risk, governance and compliance model to be viewed (i.e. the overall factory/company/deployed security posture) as well as addressing issues such as how a security incident could be managed, such as in the case of IP theft.
Manufacturers should consider providing a Risk Traceability Matrix to customers and integrators to provide transparency about the threats that were (and were not) considered. The integrator or operator can then position additional layered controls that address threats in the use context of the industrial robot.
Safety and Security Testing of an Industrial Robot
As seen it is no longer possible for a complex electromechanical system such as an industrial robot to be considered safe if appropriate controls have not been implemented to ensure that it is appropriately secured from cyber risk.
The generic standard for functional safety, IEC 61508:2010, states that:
- If the hazard analysis identifies that malevolent or unauthorized action, constituting a security threat, as being reasonably foreseeable, then a security threats analysis should be carried out.”(18.104.22.168
- If security threats have been identified, then a vulnerability analysis should be undertaken in order to specify security requirements.”(22.214.171.124
The standard further goes on to recommend using the guidance given in the IEC 62443 series.
IEC 62443 (previously ANSI/ISA-99) is a set of standards that relate to procedures for securing industrial control systems and can be equally applied to industrial robots. The guidance is applicable to those that create products, integrate systems and run industrial control systems and robotics.
Within IEC 62443 there are seven foundational requirements (FR):
- FR 1 Identification and authentication control (IAC). Protect the device by verifying the identity of and authenticating any user requesting access;
- FR 2 User control. Protect against unauthorized actions on the device resources by verifying that the necessary privileges have been granted before allowing a user to perform the actions;
- FR 3 System integrity. Ensure the integrity of the application to prevent unauthorized manipulation;
- FR 4 Data confidentiality. Ensure the confidentiality of information on communication channels and in data repositories to prevent unauthorized disclosure;
- FR 5 Restricted data flow. Segment the control system via zones and conduits to limit the unnecessary flow of data;
- FR 6 Timely response to events. Respond to security violations by notifying the proper authority, reporting needed evidence of the violation and taking timely corrective action when incidents are discovered; and
- FR 7 Resource availability. Ensure the availability of the application or device against the degradation or denial of essential services. If properly addressed these requirements will reduce many cyber security risks across an industrial robot system.
An industrial robot can be tested against the foundational requirements of IEC 62443-3-3. A security level (SL) can then be applied to the system, based on the following definitions:
- SL 1 – Protection against casual or coincidental violation
- SL 2 – Protection against intentional violation using simple means
- SL 3 – Protection against intentional violation using sophisticated means
- SL 4 – Protection against intentional violation using sophisticated means with extended resources
Level 4 requires significant investment to prevent a nation state actor type attack, something that may not be considered proportionate in most industrial robot settings.
TÜV Rheinland suggests that the best approach is to design in safety and security at the initial development of an industrial robot. For product testing a combination of traditional vulnerability and penetration testing with those tests for IEC 62443-3-3 will likely provide the best level of coverage. These tests will additionally cover issues such as outdated software components, use of poor authentication or default credentials, poor transport encryption using outdated cryptographic techniques, insecure web interfaces and poor software protection.
Industrial robot manufacturers and operators need to review the cyber security risks of their products based on the function, performance and context in which they are used.
Once reviewed a set of proportionate controls should be implemented so that risks are reduced to an acceptable level. By undertaking this process manufacturers are able
to continue product research, development and innovation in the knowledge that such risk has been managed.
Manufacturers should undertake a:
- Review of robot security design
- Hazard analysis and threat modelling
- Creation of a Traceability Risk Matrix
- Secure code review
- Penetration and dynamic test to identify vulnerabilities
- Review of components for potential cyber security weaknesses
- Review of appropriate key security controls
- Security incident response plan review
- Legal and regulatory assessment
- Software update and patch process review
- Review of vulnerable design intersections within the device architecture
Industrial robot systems integrators face the complex task of integrating complex robotic systems in a production, manufacturing or process plant. A systems integrator linking together insecure industrial robots can compound any cyber security issues many fold, as risks multiply across multiple platforms. Systems integrators need to understand the security risks of their products and work with manufacturers to reduce such risks in a deployed facility
Integrators should undertake a:
- Review of vulnerable design intersections within the system architecture
- Review of the device source code across the system
- Development of a Traceability Risk Matrix
- Secure code review of other associated systems
- Penetration and dynamic test to identify software vulnerabilities
- Review of other components for potential cyber security weaknesses.
- Review of and suggest appropriate security controls
Operators need to ensure that their production plant robots are configured in a way to address cyber risks. Other systems will need to interact with a production or processing
plant therefore a holistic approach should be taken, as each implementation is likely to be highly customised with a special set of cyber security risk. A cyber security risk assessment of the plant along with any robot systems should be undertaken on a regular basis, dependent on the nature and type of work being performed.
- Develop a security incident response plan
- Review software update and patch management processes
- Undertake a cyber security risk review of the plant facility and review vulnerable design intersections
We have seen that industrial robots can bring significant productivity gains and cost savings. New and emerging cyber related threats give manufacturers, integrators and robot operators a new set of challenges to confront. By using a cyber-threat driven risk based approach to these issues it is possible to ensure the successful growth of a business that is safe, secure and profitable.
Byrant, C. (2015, July 1st ). Worker at Volkswagen plant killed in robot accident. Retrieved from Financial Times: https://www.ft.com/content/0c8034a6-200f-11e5-aa5a-398b2169cf79
Control Engineering Europe. (2011, September 11th). iPhone used to programme and control industrial robot. Retrieved from Control Engineering Europe: http://www.controlengeurope.com/article/44966/iPhone-used-to-programme-and-control-industrial-robot.aspx
European Robotics Association. (2017, April 26th). Definition of Robot (industrial and service) accor-ding to ISO-Standard 8373:2012. Retrieved from Eu-nited.net: http://www.eu-nited.net/robotics/market/introduction/index.html
Hagerty, J. R. (2015, June 2nd). Meet the New Generation of Robots for Manufacturing. Retrieved from Wall Street Journal: https://www.wsj.com/articles/meet-the-new-generation-of-robots-for-manufacturing-1433300884
Mark W. Spong, S. H. (2004). Robot Dynamics and Control. In S. H. Mark W. Spong, Robot Dynamics and Control. smpp.northwestern.edu/savedLiterature/Spong_Textbook.pdf
Morante, S. (2015, September 29th). Cryptobotics: why robots need cyber safety. Retrieved from Fron-tiers in Robotics and AI: http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/frobt.2015.00023/full
Newman, L. H. (2016, December 9th ). The Botnet That Broke the Internet Isn’t Going Away. Retrieved from Wired.com: https://www.wired.com/2016/12/botnet-broke-internet-isnt-going-away/
Virk, G. S. (2017, April 26th). CHALLENGES OF THE CHANGING ROBOT MARKETS. Retrieved from Nist.gov: http://ws680.nist.gov/publication/get_pdf.cfm?pub_id=913708
Appendix 1 Industrial robot threat actors
Threat actors have a range of motivations for attacking a robot or robot installation. Many of these motivations don’t differ from those of attackers targeting other systems, be they corporate IT or operational technology/industrial internet of things
|Opportunists and cyber hacker wannabes||
In addition there is always the potential for accidental data loss via incompetent/non-malicious means such as lost or stolen employee laptops and memory sticks.
Appendix 2 Selected key standards in industrial robotics
|Standard Reference||Standard Name||Applicable Robotic Domain||Comments|
|ISO 10218 -1:2011||Robots and robotic devices — Safety requirements for industrial robots — Part 1: Robots||Industrial robots||Specifies requirements and guidelines for the inherent safe design, protective measures and information for use of industrial robots. It describes basic hazards associated with robots and provides requirements to eliminate, or ade-quately reduce, the risks associated with these hazards.|
|ISO 10218 -2:2011||Robots and robotic devices — Safety requirements for industrial robots — Part 2: Robot systems and integration||Industrial robots||Specifies safety requirements for the integration of industrial robots and industrial robot systems as defined in ISO 10218-1, and industrial robot cell(s).|
|ISO/ TS 15066||Robots and robotic devices — Collaborative robots||Collaborative Industrial robots||Specifies safety requirements for collaborative industrial robot systems and the work environment, and supplements the requirements and guidance on collaborative industrial robot operation given in ISO 10218-1 and ISO 10218-2|
|ISO/NP TR 20218-1||Robots and robotic devices — Safety requirements for indus-trial robots — Part 1: Industrial robot system end of arm tooling (end-effector)||Industrial Robots||Under Development|
|ISO 8373:2012||Robots and robotic devices — Vocabulary||Industrial and non-industrial robots||Defines terms used in relation with robots and robotic devices operating in both industrial and non-industrial environments.|
|ANSI/RIA R15.0 6 -2012||Industrial Robots||An adoption of ISO 10218:2011 Parts 1 and 2, provides industry with guidance on the proper use of the safety features embedded into robots, as well as how to safely integrate robots into factories and work areas.|
Appendix 3 Other standards of interest
|Standard Reference||Standard Name||Applicable Robotic Domain||Comments|
|IEC 61508||Functional Safety of Electrical/Electronic/Programmable Electronic Safety-related Systems||Functional Safety||Basic functional safety standard applicable to all kinds of industry|
|IEC 62443||Industrial network and system security||Industrial systems including robots||Provides a set of foundational requirements to address cyber security risks|
About the author
nigel stanley is a specialist in information (cyber) security and business risk with over 25 years’ experience in the IT industry. He is a well-recognised thought leader and subject matter expert capable of delivering complex cyber security projects across small, medium and large scale enterprises.
Nigel has indepth knowledge of cyber security, information security, business risk, data breach incident response, digital forensics, business continuity, cyber warfare, cyber terrorism, mobile device security, smartphone security, application development, software development, radio and electronic systems engineering, medical device security, SCADA and industrial automation and control systems (and applying IEC 62443 across these domains). Project work includes work on systems across disciplines and within functional safety standards.
He has written three books on data-bases, development technologies and secure software development and is a regular conference speaker.
He is able to passionately bring his technical knowledge together with his practical experience of cyber security and business to help clients derive benefit from information security. Nigel is a Chartered Engineer and member of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (where he sits on the IET Cyber Security Steering Group and is a professional registration interviewer), Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association and the British Computer Society.
Nigel has an MSc in Information Security from Royal Holloway, University of London where he was awarded the Royal Holloway University Smart Card Centre Crisp Telecom prize for his MSc research dissertation into mobile radio systems security and smartphones.
The author would like to thank the following for their insights, guidance and contribution to this paper;Sally Guenette, Seth Art, Nathaniel Cole, Jonathan T. Kotrba and Mark Coderre.
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