JapanThe Japanese “Weird Hotel” Chain of Hotels Concedes That Its Bedside Robots Can Be Hacked

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Henn-na Hotel (変なホテル) means “Weird Hotel(s).” It is a chain of hotels in Japan (including Tokyo) in which there are robot assistants instead of staff. The robot assistants are called “Tapia.”

Instead of humans, the front desk staff are robotic dinosaurs. The Henn-na Hotels chain is one of the strangest hotel chains in Japan. However, recently, it has been made public that unscrupulous individuals such as hackers could hack the “Tapia” robot assistants that face the beds in Henna-na Hotel rooms. Henn-na Hotel has just reached another level of “weird”ness!

Although the famous chain of hotels claimed that the risks of hackers being able to use the robot assistants in this malicious way are low, Henn-na Hotel still had to concede that the robot assistants that are placed next to customers’ beds, called “Tapia,” could be hacked by those with technological know-how. Hackers could theoretically control the cameras and microphones.

Earlier in October, Henn-na Hotel posted on its website “In the future, we will operate with the safety and security of our customers as our top priority.” They confessed that there was a problem with the Tapia units, and that they were not fully secure. The post continued that “[c]ountermeasures against the unauthorized access method… have been completed.”

Lance R. Vick, a cyber security engineer, tried to contact the hotel this summer. He was the one who had found the potential exploit in the robots. However, after they ignored or brushed him off for three months, he decided to go public with the security fault in a tweet:

“The bed facing Tapia robot deployed at the famous Robot Hotels in Japan can be converted to offer anyone remote camera/mic access to all future guests”

“Vendor had 90 days. They didn’t care.”

“It has been a week, so I am dropping a 0day [a sort of “hacker’s how-to”].”

“The bed facing Tapia robot deployed at the famous Robot Hotels in Japan can be converted to offer anyone remote camera/mic access to all future guests.”

“Unsigned code via NFC behind the head.”

He tweeted the above tweets at around 10:00 AM on October 12.

Earlier this year, Henna-na Hotels was in the newspapers because of it announcing that it would “lay off” robots and hire more human workers. Now, though, it might become difficult for Henna Hotels to find human customers, who might be worried about their privacy when sleeping, eating, or playing board games next to the potentially voyeuristic Tapia robots.