Fork me on Github
Fork me on Github

Joe Dog Software

Proudly serving the Internets since 1999

up arrow Cyber Threats Against Surgical Robots

Robot Surgeon

Things that would suck for one thousand, please, Alex.

Imagine — and why the hell not? — that you need an emergency appendectomy. Yours is about to explode because why-do-we-even-have-those-things? You are rushed into the operating room and placed on a table beneath a curious apparatus. “Get me a nerd, stat!” Somebody shouts.

A man in surgical clothing greets you. “Relax,” he says. “I’ve done a million of these.” He pushes a button and mask drops and smothers your face. The man’s credentials don’t match what your parents expected from their emergency room staff. The “doctor” is a computer operator, a Microsoft Certified Surgeon from ITT Tech. Your procedure begins when he selects “Appendectomy” from a drop-down menu. It is performed by a robot that immediately goes to work, carving into your body in search of an inflamed appendix.

Suddenly the robot orders silicon. Unexpected noises fill the room as the augmentation unit fires up. “WTF?” the operator types into his IRC session. “This thing’s going haywire.” Everyone in the channel responds in a similar manner: “LOL!” they type back. “This is serious shit!!!1!1!”, he anger-types. “ROTFLMAO!” they reply.

The robotic knives withdraw from your abdomen. The apparatus glides on tracks as it works its way towards your chest. It starts to make cuts around your nipples. The operator is agog; his jaw drops and he’s unsure what to do. The augmentation unit descends and attaches to your chest. Silicon starts flowing. The operator starts smashing his keyboard. “Why does this shit always happen on a Friday afternoon??!!” he screams. “LOL!” the IRC channel says.

So what happened? The hospital didn’t keep its goddam software up-to-date. The surgical robot was hacked. And now you have lady tits because 4Chan was in need of some afternoon LOLz.

Sound far-fetched? A team of researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle just hijacked a teleoperated surgical robot and documented its security vulnerabilities in a new white paper. Great! As if surgery wasn’t stressing enough, here’s one more thing to think about.

At least the guys at 4Chan gave you big ones. (They’re a little obsessed with breasts over there…)