With $1000 And A Team Of Geniuses, You Too Can Hack A Government Drone

With the drone era upon us, securing pilotless aircraft is of the utmost importance because of the threat an errant vehicle could pose to civilians. But in answering a dare from the Department of Homeland Security, a team of researchers from the University of Texas proved that a government drone could be hijacked with a GPS-spoofing device made for less than $US1000.

According to Fox News, the researchers were able to hijack the drone and set it on a path of destruction (without actually destroying anything, mind you), by analysing the GPS signal the drone was locked in on, then sending a stronger signal for it to pick up on.

Initially, his signal matches that of the GPS system so the drone thinks nothing is amiss. That's when he attacks — sending his own commands to the onboard computer, putting the drone at his beck and call.

Obviously, it's not like anyone can do this. But the thought that a group of people with the proper collection of brains and resources could launch missiles from a drone (or turn a drone itself into a weapon) is a scary thought. [Fox News via Reuters]

Image: AP


Comments

    i.e. the iranians probably did hijack rq-170

    Wasn't this the plot of a James Bond movie from the last freak'in century!?!

    Seriously - The writers of these movies typically just expand/extrapolate on currently available technologies of the time, as it was written in the mid 1990's this should have been well known to the drone manufacturers...

    Pro-Tip for anyone designing secure systems: Read some Sci-Fi occasionally!

    No, this was the plot of Die Hard 2. The bad guys supposedly changed the parameters of the planes to make them think they were higher than they were, so they'd decend in fog and crash into the ground. Tricking the GPS of a device that can only fly by GPS is effectively the same thing , except it doesn't require taking over the airport.

    But important, this only affects its navigation - no one said they were able to access the onboard systems to cause it to fire missiles! Hopefully, that is properly encrypted and secured.

    First rule of Sci-fi: Bypass primary/secondary systems. Everything is hackable. Just somethings require time, but when you win, automate the process. I'm looking at you wifi.

    This the plot of Black ops 2 isn't it?

    I call crap. Yes you can divert it, but hardly "control it" because the drone has a programmed flight path, and you need to know that too, which an attacker does not. Also missile release and targeting is controlled via satelite . All extant drones can be directly controlled, so if you detect bad nav you fly it out using inertial direction and barometric altitude once autopilot is disengaged - the iran issue could not happen (assuming the drone did not just suffer a mechanical failure but was "hijacked" as some claimed) with a drone that is "hot" because when it is "hot" it is under human control. So you can "crash" a drone in auto-pilot mode by making the "ground go down" IF a human does not intervene and only on a drone that lacks redundant systems like radar for altitude, but thats it. Also ALL GPS in the jamming radius is potentially effected, including your own military trucks, jets, drones, ships not to mention passenger planes and cars, cell phone networks etc - fun, but hardly a great idea. Drones will be hardened against this, and it will be a non issue.

    Automatically lost my respect OP for doing a story posted by fox news.

    What Iranians did is probably as follows:
    1. With little intelligence work they found where the drone's home base is roughly located.
    2. They jammed the drones command signals using high grade Russian EW equipment. the drone would go into Auto pilot and attempt to RTB.
    3. knowing the drones base coordinates, Iranians would initiate GPS spoofing (what the Texan "geniuses" did) and fool it into landing within their territory.

    As you can see, Iranians didn't need to really know the inner workings of the drone. They simply used a vulnerability that has been "public" since 2003.

    jeremy: It'll always be a cat and mouse game. This vulnerability will be fixed. but, the other side will find other ways. I recommend thinking more before you post: It's actually a great idea if you take the military applications into consideration... Disrupting guidance of a wide variety of PGMs, disrupting navigation and creating mayhem on tactical and strategical levels.

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