Telefnica SA: Robots and cybersecurity, the future of industry

Smart factories are a reality. The advance of digitalization in the industry has led to an increase in the implementation of new automation systems. Industrial environments where robots take center stage and interact one-on-one with humans in a hyper-connected environment are increasingly common.

Spain, which is among the top 10 countries in the world with the most robots, has 16 robots per 1,000 workers, according to figures from the International Federation of Robotics. And in fact, according to Spanish cybersecurity firm Alias ​​Robotics, based on World Economic Forum estimates, the number of robots will equal the number of human workers by 2030.

The benefits of using robots in production lines, supply chains and any type of activity are obvious, but the security risks and the need to take action regarding the threats that digital devices are exposed to are also obvious. .

After serving dozens of robotic customers, in the last year alone Alias ​​Robotics technical team detected over 100 vulnerabilities in different robots. These vulnerabilities could affect both the economic sphere of the user (by paralyzing production) and his physical safety (due to accidents resulting from bot attacks). Moreover, an industrial robot can become the access key to sensitive data, such as those related to industrial property.

A “vaccine” for robots

“Robotics is as vulnerable today as PCs were in the late 1980s,” says Endika Gil Uriarte, Chief Strategy Officer (CSO) Alias ​​Robotics. According to him, the advance of Industry 4.0 and hyper connectivity “has trampled on industrial systems, designed to operate in isolated environments”.

Additionally, many robot makers overlook cybersecurity issues, he says. “It’s common for these companies to scale very quickly and sell a large number of units within a few years, and they may lose control of some of the deployed systems,” he adds.

Alias ​​Robotics’ goal is to protect robots and their components from third-party attacks by eliminating or mitigating these risks. To this end, they work with robot manufacturers and end users and provide them with Robot Immune System (RIS), an intelligent antivirus that protects robots from cybercriminals from the inside.

RIS was created by a specialized technical team with more than 10 years of experience in robotics and cybersecurity and it is “an intelligent antivirus that is integrated into robots to protect them while it evolves and adapts like the human immune system,” explains the start-up from Alava.

This software exposes the machines to various virtual threats and prepares their systems to avoid possible computer virus infections. With the help of artificial intelligence, it learns to better prevent these threats, as well as to identify them even before they arise.

Robotic Cybersecurity Lab

Since December 2020, Alias ​​Robotics has been backed by Telefónica, which became a shareholder through Telefónica Tech Ventures. As a result of this strategic agreement, the world’s first laboratory exclusively dedicated to robotic cybersecurity innovation was inaugurated in September this year.

The CS4R lab, located at the Wayra Innovation Hub in Munich, will allow both companies to continue to lead the robotic cybersecurity sector within the industry, reach potential local customers, and ultimately continue to help businesses deal with the next digital influx in a secure way.

This lab will include a variety of robots widely used in industry, such as collaborative robots, which interact directly with workers, conventional industrial robots and mobile robotic platforms.

For Vicente Segura, Head of OT Security at Telefónica Tech, “the industry is undergoing an unprecedented digital transformation process in which all systems, including robots, must integrate the most advanced security mechanisms. Robotic cybersecurity helps businesses avoid downtime due to attacks, which can lead to significant financial loss and reputational damage.”

Legislation and training

The European Union, increasingly involved in digitalisation, has started to take the issue seriously and, as part of its cybersecurity strategy, seems to be preparing new legislation on “cyber resilience” for 2022, according to which a common cybersecurity standard will be applied to connected devices. devices will be put in place.

Another solution to deal with insecurity and cyber threats is training. There are industrial engineers, programmers, cybersecurity architects, etc., but robotics is an emerging field that requires different skills and profiles that arise from scientific collaboration between them.

Only in this way, by combining all these factors, can we have a connected industry in which humans and robots cooperate and work safely. It’s the future.

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