Oct
12
2009

Robots are watching you go to the bathroom… if you keep your robots in the bathroom.

Bathroom-bot doesn't like what it sees: But it's not about what Bathroom-bot likes.
Bathroom-bot doesn't like what it sees: But it's not about what Bathroom-bot likes.Courtesy thewhitestdogalive
I do. That is, I keep robots in my bathroom. I have a modified Teddy Ruxpin with a webcam erupting from its mouth perched on the edge of my sink, pointed toward the toilet. That might sound a little weird, but it makes sense if you think about it. See, if I’m ever wondering whether or not I am currently using the toilet, I can log onto the internet, and check out that webcam. If I don’t appear to be on the toilet, I must be at work, or some other place with a computer, like a public library. But if I’m wondering if I am currently using the toilet, and discover that I am unable to access my webcam via the internet, I must actually be using the toilet, where there is no computer.

Easy! It’s a simple way of keeping on top of what’s happening in my life.

Buuuuut… It turns out that the many wireless, web-enabled devices you surely have in your homes can turn against you with the help of hackers. This includes your TiVo, your parents’ fancy security system, your child’s robot, and my Ruxpin toilet-watcher. Scary, right? Your little robo-helpers periodically send out packets of information to your wireless network, and if someone were in the neighborhood looking for that sort of thing, they could find out what sort of device was sending signals, and take control of it.

A group of researchers at the University of Washington actually tested out several fairly common wireless gadgets, and found that it wasn’t so difficult to take them over. The damage they were able to do was limited by the fact that most wireless devices don’t really do all that much. Having the TiVo go crazy isn’t so bad, but someone else using your nanny-cam is a little disturbing. Toy robots like this little dude, which can be controlled wirelessly to roll around and take live video and audio are potentially troublesome. (On the other hand, that little robot can also play digital music, so friendlier hackers could use it to follow you around and regale you with song.) And there’s no telling who might know when I’m using my bathroom.

The solutions are, of course:

-Take the cameras out of your bathroom (Not going to happen)
-Don’t buy any wireless toys that are stronger than you are (We’ll see)
-Don’t buy any wireless toys (Well, sure, like a toaster. But I want more than that)
-Buy wireless things with fancier security (I don’t even know how that would work. I just thought I should put it on the list)
-Try turning that junk off some time (Fine. Whatever.)

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Gene's picture
Gene says:

If robots aren't your thing, you can always build your own surveillance pumpkin.

posted on Thu, 10/29/2009 - 6:01pm

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