Paranoid Technology All things cybersecurity


Drones may be the Next Target for Hackers!

captured-us-droneIn December 2011 Iran National TV aired views of a RQ-170 Sentinel claiming that they hacked the ultra secret surveillance drone; researchers questioned Iran's capability to accomplish such a complicated task, the U.S. government immediately denied the incident. Granted Iran might have obtained "external guidance" in bringing the drone down, but it is now proven that this type of hack is quite plausible.

As a result drone manufacturers are scrambling to make drones immune to such attacks by use of unpredictability, GPS independent guidance / mission control systems... This is a very hot topic because the whole war strategy is now shaping around Low Intensity Conflicts (LIC) and drone warfare... Without drones delivering strategic blows this strategy will fail in the long term.;)

In the civil arena - now there are talks of commercial drones filling up the skies - FAA authorized the use of commercial drones and the testing will soon start in the second quarter of 2014.

Of course the threat level of a military drone being hijacked and a commercial drone being hijacked is two separate issues - but regardless of military or commercial; drones raining down on our heads is still not a happy thought.

Sammy Kamkar demonstrated how to create a zombie drone army in December 2013 -

See the excerpt from BBC's published article on February 6, 2014 - Are drone the next target for hackers?

One way to hack a drone involves messing with the system it uses to navigate. US military drones use encrypted frequencies of the Global Positioning System (GPS), and this was the RQ-170’s Achilles heel, said the Iranians. They first jammed its communications links, which disconnected it from ground controllers and made it switch to autopilot; it also interrupted the secure data flow from the GPS satellites. The drone was forced to search for unencrypted GPS frequencies normally used by commercial aircraft. At this point, the Iranians said, they used a technique called “spoofing” – sending the plane wrong GPS coordinates, tricking it into believing that it was near its home base in Afghanistan. And so it landed on Iranian territory, directly into the welcoming arms of its kidnappers.

The US rejected the hacking scenario, insisting that its flying robot simply had malfunctioned. Military drones usually have a back-up system to guide them home automatically if contact with operators is lost. But that clearly didn’t work.

Overall the moral of the story - the drones will be one of the targets for the hackers, especially for the ones engaged in cyber-warfare; if it is connected, it can be hacked!

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