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According to a demonstration made by a security researcher that works for IBM, Nils Rodday, police drones are easy to hijack, with the user having no method to regain control of the device. This did not comes as an attempt to point and blame any particular drone manufacturers, but instead to raise awareness regarding the fact that even the units that are believed to be the most secure can still disappoint at one point.
Not to mention that something surely has to be done about the state of affairs as it is now.
The researcher pointed out that he was able to hijack a high security police drone that is worth $35,000 from as far as an entire mile away without having to resort to any specialized equipment. All Rodday used was a laptop and an USB radio chip, along with a method he thought of back when he was a graduate student at the University of Twente in the Netherlands.
The way hijacking a drone such as that, Rodday explains, is by making use of the radio chip in order to break his way into the police’s UAV controls is by exploiting the WiFi connection between the device and the operator. Or alternatively, by getting in the radio protocol between the modules and the drone. According to the researcher, both of these connections are weak in terms of security and it hardly takes a lot to crack them open.
This is a greater issue than it seems on first look. Considering the major security flaws that these drones come with, anyone with a minimal amount of equipment (estimated at $40) but a malicious intent in their mind can take control of the drones and use them to steal information, steal the drones themselves or even attempt to harm others by using the machines.
The theoretical guinea pig that Rodday has initially used for his study was a surveillance quadcopter the Dutch police uses; nearly $21,000 in value. While no actual hijacking was performed and no drones were harmed in the making of the paper, his study of how security drones function brought him to the conclusion that every single brand of drones shares an equal pool of vulnerabilities
So authorities are advised to pick their brands of drones well and be wary of the potential of hijacking. Meanwhile, drone manufacturers should certainly revise the whole method they employ when building drone controls.
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