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UW CSE’s Yoshi Kohno on American Public Media: “Could that new toy robot be hacked?”

“Look, I’m not trying to freak you out here. Well, OK, maybe a little. But think about it: We have computers all over the place. Your laptop or desktop PC; maybe you have a tablet too, maybe a smartphone. And it doesn’t stop there. Your car might be computerized, your kitchen, the toys your kids got for Christmas. If any of those computers are connected to any kind of network, there exists an issue of security …

Yoshi Kohno is an associate professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Washington. He and his team figured out how to break into a car’s internal, computer network. They were able to control the brakes and turn the car on and off. They also fiddled around with a commercially available toy robot. ‘One of the things we found is that as soon as we turned this toy robot on, it advertises a wireless ad hoc network that anyone can connect to,’ Kohno says …

“Kohno’s team has been looking into something far more serious than a toy robot: implanted medical devices. ‘We found that a person using their own equipment could wirelessly communicate with a pacemaker or defibrillator and change its settings, turn on and off therapies, and in fact make it issue a large shock,’ he says.”

Listen to the full story here.

December 29, 2011