This article originally appeared on VICE Asia
Japanese technology is the envy of people all over the world. High-tech robots have become attractions in Tokyo, with restaurants and hotels in the city opting for these futuristic assistants. They are effective, entertaining and interactive. But what happens when humans use them for evil rather than good?
It’s a scary thought that a Japanese hotel chain had to grapple with recently, after a researcher discovered their robots in the room were hackable. This means that the robots can be manipulated so that the video footage of the room can be viewed remotely by hackers, The register reported.
HIS Hotel Holdings’ Henn na hotel in Maihama Bay Tokyo has pod-shaped robots called Tapia that help check in guests to their rooms. Thanks to facial recognition, the robots verify the identity of customers before leading them to their respective rooms. Customers also have a bedside robot to help them with other tasks. They can provide weather information and allow customers to shop online and connect their smartphones.
According to Tokyo reporter, the Henn na hotel has 10 branches in various locations that use 100 Tapia robots.
It all sounds really cool, until security researcher Lance Vick warns in a tweet that bots are easily hackable.
According to Vick, they were programmed with an “unsigned code”, allowing any user to press an NFC tag on the back of the robot’s head. This will allow them to access the robot’s camera and microphone via a streaming app of their choice.
Vick informed the hotel of this problem and gave them 90 days to act before reporting the defect.
After giving the hotel one last warning and hearing nothing, he decided to do a public hack on October 12, posting details of how he did it on Twitter. This proved that hackers can access robots’ cameras and microphones, making it possible to monitor and listen to anyone in the room.
Henn na Hotel issued a statement in response to the hack, saying it removed the bots from the rooms, investigated them and took countermeasures against unauthorized access.
HIS, the owner of the hotel chain, also tweeted: “We apologize for any inconvenience caused.”
While they updated the robots, the company told the Tokyo reporter, that the risks of unauthorized access were low.
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