Yesterday we learned that a group of researchers in Sweden and Denmark had discovered security flaws in Softbank Robotics’ Pepper robot.

The security flaws allowed for an attacker to take control of the humanoid robot through trivial security measures which could even lead to other devices being compromised if they were attached to Pepper.

Our primary concern here was that Nedbank and Vodacom had both announced trials where the robot was being used as an information point for customers.

In the case of Nedbank, the news from the researchers that Pepper could hack other devices connected to it was alarming to us, but spokesperson Sharda Naidoo has assured htxt.africa that Pepper poses no risk to customers.

“Currently, Pepper’s main function is ‘meet and greet’ at branches and to provide Nedbank product and service information to our clients. Pepper does not have access to, or store any client information,” Naidoo told htxt.africa.

“Pepper is currently being used in ‘autonomous mode’, which means she is not connected to any Nedbank systems or servers, and does NOT hold any sensitive data. Given that there is no access to client or bank systems and information, we do not see a risk,” the Nedbank spokesperson added.

We’ve also been told that the robot undergoes regular security testing to ensure that customers are safe.

As for Vodacom, a spokesperson tells us that Pepper was simply being tested for customer concierge services and that there are currently no Pepper robots in service at Vodacom. They went on to say that during testing Pepper did not have access to nor did it collect customer information.

“The safety and security of our customers remains our number one priority and we will ensure that all measures are taken to safeguard customers,” the spokesperson added.

So then, while the makers of Pepper struggle with the news that its robot is a security nightmare, South African firms appear to be taking security seriously, and that’s worth commending.

 

[Image – CC BY 2.0 Dick Thomas Johnson]
Brendyn Lotz writes news, reviews, and opinion pieces for Hypertext. His interests include SMEs, innovation on the African continent, cybersecurity, blockchain, games, geek culture and YouTube.