Researchers show how medical robots can be hacked during surgery

University of Washington in Seattle’s research team managed to hijack a tele-operated surgical robot. This exposed major security vulnerabilities in machines that are eventually going to replace surgeons in hospitals all over the world.

Telesurgical procedures have been performed by doctors since 2001 after a New York based surgeon removed a patient’s gall bladder successfully in France.

The benefits of remote surgery are obviously various but unlike other tools that rely upon telecommunications medical robots have inherent security vulnerabilities.

Communication between the robot and the surgeon generally takes place via public networks and sometimes or in some regions internet connectivity is poor.

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So, the risk of cyberattacks disrupting the functions of a surgical bot is high.

Security researchers tried to explore the way cyberattacks may disrupt a surgical bot by using the Raven II. It is a medical bot having 2 surgical arms, which are manipulated through an advanced control console comprising of a visual feed and haptic feedback.

Researchers were able to control the robot via a standard internet network and used it to transfer rubber blocks from one peg board part to another.

Bonaci and Co. described the researchers’ experiments:

“The team tries out three type of attacks. The first changes the commands sent by the operator to the robot by deleting, delaying or re-ordering them. This causes the robot’s movement to become jerky and difficult to control.

The second type of attack modifies the intention of signals from the operator to the robot by changing, say, the distance an arm should move or the degree it should rotate and so on. Most of these attacks had a noticeable impact on the Raven immediately upon launch. ”

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Image via Shutterstock

Waqas

Waqas Amir is a Milan-based cybersecurity journalist with a passion for covering latest happenings in cyber security and tech world. In addition to being the founder of this website, Waqas is also into gaming, reading and investigative journalism.