Cyber Security & Drones
drone, camera, flying @ Pixabay

Drone security threats

Drones have many benefits. For instance, your realtor may be able to take aerial photos of your property. Drones can also be used to deliver emergency medical supplies. Privacy concerns are also raised by drones.

Although drones flying above your home and taking photos may be an inconvenience, privacy is not the main concern. Drone security concerns go beyond that. Drones could be used to hack into other electronic devices or hacked. Hackers don’t need to have their own drone. They could hack yours in many ways to make it more useful for their purposes. Cyber-security problems will become more urgent as drones increase in number and hackers become better at identifying vulnerabilities in drone security.

How drones can easily be hacked

A drone can be hacked in many ways. A hacker could gain control of the drone by downlinking video or other images to the base station. Hacking a drone is not difficult. Many drone operators leave their drones open for attack.

GPS Spoofing feeds the drone false GPS coordinates. Although the drone believes it is flying in its original pattern, it is actually being directed to another location. While a hacker might just want to crash a drone intentionally, it could also be used to hit a car, person, or another drone. The hacker could instruct the drone to land close to the hacker in order for it to be stolen. This payload might include a drone-mounted camera or images on its memory card.

You can hack drones from up to a mile away. Hackers can gain full control over the drone’s systems and command and control signals by hijacking them. Hacking a drone’s radio signal is not difficult because it isn’t encrypted. Sometimes the signal may be blocked, preventing the drone from being able to navigate.

Skyjack, the Skyjack experiment by security researcher Samy kamkar, involved hijacking a drone with a Raspberry pi payload and hijacking multiple drones to create a swarm that could be controlled by the hacker. Hacking a drone together with another drone greatly increases the potential threat – it could even be compared to how botnets operate to perform DDOS attack — taking control of large numbers of computers.

Hackers can intercept data transmitted from drone to base station via downlink threats. It’s possible to intercept video being transmitted from the drone and controller (as is the case for First Person View (FPV), systems). This is especially true if data is not encrypted (which is often the case for consumer systems).

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Security tips for drones

You aren’t the only one concerned about your drone’s security. There are many ways to make your drone safer from drone hacking. These drone security tips will help you secure your drone.

  • Keep your drone’s firmware updated regularly. Major drone manufacturers release patches as new security threats arise. After hackers gained access to the manufacturer’s website, DJI released a security patch that allowed them to view flight logs, photos, and maps from drone users in real-time. However, some clients refused it to be installed – giving hackers the potential to access all their data.
  • Create a strong password to your base station app. Most hackers will give up on you and seek out easier prey. This will help to prevent a malefactor from hacking the drone signal.
  • Use a smartphone or laptop to control. Keep it safe and avoid malware infecting it. In 2012, malware infected several US Army drones after an operator downloaded and played a videogame from the drone’s computer. Do not download any suspicious programs or apps.
  • Sign up for a Virtual Private Network to prevent hackers from accessing your communications while you’re connected to internet. VPNs act as secure gateways to the internet. They encrypt your connection so hackers can’t access it.
  • Limit the number of devices you can connect to your base station. This will stop hackers from hijacking your signal to control devices other than your own.
  • Make sure your drone is set to “Return To Home” mode This will allow the drone to return to you if it loses its signal, jams, or runs out of battery. This will allow you to retrieve your drone in case of hijack. RTH is dependent on GPS for its operation, so it is susceptible to GPS spoofing.

How drones can be used to steal data from hackers

Computer systems were traditionally protected within a perimeter. This was both physically and in terms of their computer network. Data has become more mobile with Wi-Fi and Cloud, which make it possible for data to be accessed from any location. The Internet of Things and RFID enable data flow between smaller devices like security cameras, pallet labels, goods tags, and retail store tags.

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Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and RFID are limited in their functionality. This makes it difficult to hack. Drones, however, allow hackers greater mobility.

A small computer such as an ASUS Tinker Board or Raspberry Pi could be loaded onto a drone, and then dropped on top of an office building. This could be used to attack Wi-Fi, RFID and Bluetooth vulnerabilities. It could pretend to be a Wi-Fi network to steal data from smartphones and tablets, and hijack Bluetooth peripherals such as keyboards and mice. A drone-mounted computer could use keylogging to steal passwords.

How to stop malicious drones

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), also known as Unmanned Aircraft or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, has jurisdiction over drones. They are protected in two important ways.

  1. You cannot take them down or interfere physically with them
  2. You must not interfer with the signals between the drone and controller.

Protecting your data and space is the most important aspect of any defense you take.

One way to combat the drone threat is geofencing. Geofencing is a method of creating a virtual boundary around a specific location using GPS or RFID-based software. It will respond to any drone entering the area. Commercially-available drones can be wired with controls that prevent drones from flying into or taking off from geofenced areas. DJI and Parrot, two of the largest drone manufacturers, have geofenced vulnerable areas such as airports and prisons.

Hackers have discovered ways to disable the geofencing software, which prevents drones from flying in restricted areas. Hacks for drones can be found online; however, the easiest way to remove geofencing is to simply wrap tinfoil around your drone to block the GPS signal.

Geofencing is not also available to the majority of consumers, despite an attempt to create a No-Fly Zone registry in 2015.

Can you spot drones if you are unable to block them? Although there are several ways to detect if a drone is approaching you, all have their flaws. There is no reliable method to capture a drone.

Radar is one method for drone detection. However, it’s not very reliable and can make mistakes like mistaking birds for drones. Acoustic sensors might be more effective in detecting unwanted drones because they can be programmed with specific drone sound signatures.

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Drones can be detected by RF scanners that scan the electromagnetic spectrum. They recognize drone transmissions. This will not catch drones that use GPS to navigate, or radio signals for navigation.

Thermal imaging also detects heat emitted from objects. This allows drones to be tracked by their thermal footprint. There is a high chance of false positives.

It is not easy to detect and stop drones. It is difficult to detect malicious drones. Instead of trying to catch them, users can improve their wireless and home security.

How to protect your network and airspace from drone attacks

A solution such as Kaspersky Antidrone can help you to regain your peace of mind if you are concerned about drones entering your airspace. If you are concerned about drones taking your data, then you should ensure that you have data security.

  • To ensure that your internet communications are secure, use a VPN when you’re using Wi-Fi. Kaspersky offers a VPN Safe Connection which can be used to protect your home and public Wi-Fi hotspots.
  • Lock all IoT devices at home and make sure they are on a guest network. This will prevent hackers from accessing your main network via a smart device.
  • Do not leave your WiFi router with its default username and password. Have a strong password to gain access.
  • Do not use the same passwords on different networks or devices. This makes it easier for hackers to gain access your digital life, once they have a drone with a camera.

Drones’ future

According to the FAA, the biggest opportunity for drones lies not in the hobby market but rather in the commercial market. Drones can be used to make deliveries, provide mapping and survey services, monitor crops and perform safety inspections in areas that are too dangerous for inspectors.

There are many possibilities. This will increase drone security threats.

Although it is not clear yet how drones can increase their security, businesses will need to do this before commercial drone usage becomes common. It is important that drone manufacturers address security concerns. You also need to ensure that your home and internet are secure from drone hackers.

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Evangeline Christina is a Cyber Security Enthusiast, Security Blogger, Technical Editor, Certified Ethical Hacker, Author at Cyberspecial.net. Previously, he worked as a security news reporter in a reputed news agency.