SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A team of researchers successfully hacked a robot designed to carry out surgical procedures, prompting fears the devices could be taken over by hackers with malicious intent.

The researchers from University of Washington were studying the pros and cons of robots used for surgery.

The surgeries are carried out remotely, offering patients in areas with poor medical access a chance at care they couldn’t otherwise receive.  The devices are controlled by surgeons using standard web access, leaving them open to hackers, ComputerWorld reported.

The researchers used a two-armed Raven II telesurgery robot, and set out to hijack the robot during an operation in which the robot was supposed to move rubber blocks.

They hacked the robot using three different attacks, finally allowing them to completely take over its actions.  Another attack allowed them to cause the robot to freeze during the operation.

“We are able to easily stop the robot from ever being properly reset, thus effectively making a surgical procedure impossible,” the researchers wrote.

The researchers concluded that encrypting the data could fix the vulnerability.

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