"Dr. Hacker, I Presume?" An Experimentally-based Discussion about Security of Teleoperated Surgical Systems

Tariq Yusuf, Tamara Bonaci, Tadayoshi Kohno, and Howard Jay Chizeck, University of Washington


From military Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs) to home-made TETRIX® robots, teleoperated systems are playing an increasingly important role in our lives. Like robotics, teleoperated systems are more affordable and easier to acquire than ever before. In the medical field, we have seen applications of this technology in systems like da Vinci® where robots assist in medical procedures. Teleoperated surgical robots will in the future likely be used in more extreme scenarios such as battlefields, natural disasters, and human-caused catastrophes. But, with the rapidly increasing application of this technology raises the question; what if these robots are taken over and turned into weapons?

The goal of this presentation is to raise awareness to this emerging threat, and to initiate research and development of patient safe, information secure and privacy preserving teleoperated robotic surgery. Experts agree that complex systems are best secured when security mechanisms are incorporated into the system from the beginning. Here we have a rare opportunity to design a system and its appropriate security mechanism in parallel. Moreover, we anticipate that the majority of threats against telerobotic surgery will also be relevant to other teleoperated robotic and co-robotic systems.

We start the effort towards safe and secure teleoperated surgery by identifying possible attacks, and experimentally analyzing the scopes, impacts, and resources needed to mount them. We then discuss possible implications on teleoperated surgery. Finally, we provide some initial guidance to prevent these types of attacks from occurring in other applications of teleoperated robotics.

Open Access Media

USENIX is committed to Open Access to the research presented at our events. Papers and proceedings are freely available to everyone once the event begins. Any video, audio, and/or slides that are posted after the event are also free and open to everyone. Support USENIX and our commitment to Open Access.

@conference {209096,
author = {Tariq Yusuf and Tamara Bonaci and Tadayoshi Kohno and Howard Jay Chizeck},
title = {"Dr. Hacker, I Presume?" An Experimentally-based Discussion about Security of Teleoperated Surgical Systems},
year = {2014},
address = {San Diego, CA},
publisher = {{USENIX} Association},
month = aug,

Presentation Video

Presentation Audio