Police Drones – Hacked!

by coptrz on May 12, 2016

With just $40 worth of hardware, hackers have managed to break into and remotely control police-owned drones from up to 2km away.

It wasn’t all illegal though: the hacker was actually Nils Rodday, a security specialist at IBM. He demonstrated the hack at the Black Hat security conference in Asia, to prove that drones could potentially be susceptible to remote takeovers if the encryption potential of the common Xbee RF chips has not been implemented.

The added performance overhead of including encryption in the Xbee RF chips mean many manufacturers have chosen to not implement the additional security available. The additional encryption can drain battery life and increase response time – not what you need for a fast-response drone!

Rodday demonstrated that a hacker could potentially take over a drone like those generic norvasc used by law enforcement services with a simple Android app. It wouldn’t lock the operator out of the system, thereby reducing the risk – however a hacker could still send commands to crash or divert the drone.

There is light at the end of the tunnel, however. The company who provided the test drone is looking into security patches, and others are doing the same. The drones cannot be entirely controlled by the hacker, so a skilled operator would still be able to safely bring the UAV to land and switch it off to stop the connection.

If you want to make sure your drone pilots are confident enough to deal with a hack attack, the COPTRZ team can deliver bespoke, specialised training! Contact us at services@coptrz.com for more details.

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