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Military robots inspire debate, vulnerability worries

As the versatility of robots continues to expand, so could their value as a cyber attack target.

Dec. 23, 2013 - 04:19PM   |  
By KEVIN G. COLEMAN   |   Comments
Kevin Coleman is a senior fellow at the Technolytics Institute and former chief strategist at Netscape. (File)
Kevin Coleman is a senior fellow at the Technolytics Institute and former chief strategist at Netscape. (File) ()
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The military’s interest in unmanned systems is certainly no surprise to anyone following the hardware of warfare. Some of the robotic capabilities have been demonstrated in the Afghanistan war. While there has been a noted slowdown that many attribute to budget reductions, research, development and deployment continue. Some of the latest work repurposes these platforms in the war against terrorism.

If you don’t think this is a hot market, consider that this year Google acquired eight robotic companies including one that focuses on military robots. Many of you may not realize that the market for military ground robots is projected to reach $12 billion in five years. Robots have multiple applications within the modern military; some, I am told, are classified, as are the full capabilities of some of the more advanced robotic platforms. There is an entire class of robotic platforms that are termed “systems of engagement,” words which suggest they are equipped with a weapon.

In 2013 a United Nations subject-matter-expert openly called for a worldwide halt to the development, testing, production and use of robots that are equipped with weapons and that are programmed to select and take-out enemies without human command. Multiple countries including the United States, Britain, and Israel have robotic platforms that stop just short of being at that level of lethal operation.

The military application of robotic systems has significant benefits for a modern day conflict. As the use robots and the application of robotic platforms continue to evolve, it is a sure bet that their computer and communications systems will become the target of cyber attacks. One has to wonder how protected the command, control and communications systems are from cyber attacks. This is an area worth watching!

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