Innovation That Matters

Defense robot

New robot detects industrial hackers


A new robot could help detect, deflect and counteract hacker attempts who target factories and industrial sites.

Hacking is a big problem for manufacturers, who can find their systems vulnerable to industrial espionage and data theft. One particular concern for cybersecurity professionals is just that. As more and more devices are connected, it can be difficult to realise when a system has been hacked. To combat this, Internet security professionals use decoy computer systems known as “honeypots” to throw hackers off the trail. These are designed to send alerts when they are being hacked, before the attack reaches key systems. Now, a team at Georgia Tech’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering has designed a mobile honeypot that can move around a factory floor.

Unlike other remote-controlled robots, the HoneyBot is able to trick hackers into thinking it is performing one task, when in reality it’s doing something completely different. In a factory, the HoneyBot robot would sit motionless, only springing to life when a hacker gains access. The robot would then follow commands that were deemed harmless – such as moving slowly around – but would not do anything dangerous. Meanwhile, the hacker would be lulled into thinking they were in control, allowing the company time to study the attackers. They can then determine what methods they are using and even to figure out where or who they are.

Sensors on the HoneyBot are designed to send back false information. This in turn tricks the hacker into thinking the robot was under their control. In contrast to honeypot software, the fact that the HoneyBot can move makes it more believable to hackers. In tests, volunteer hackers were fooled into thinking the robot was taking “forbidden” shortcuts through a maze, when in reality it was standing still. We have already seen several ways to help improve security, including facial recognition software and biometric authentication. In the future, will devices like HoneyBot become a commonplace defence against hacking?




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