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Open-Sky Drone Policy Poses Cybercriminal Risk

Open-Sky Drone Policy Poses Cybercriminal Risk

March 27, 2019

Homeland & Cyber Security

ZDNet – Drones flying over populated areas, unchecked, represent a real threat to our privacy, Ben-Gurion University researchers have warned.

On March 27, 2019, academics from BGU and Fujitsu System Integration Laboratories revealed the results of a new study that examined over 200 techniques and technologies currently in use to detect and disable drones.

Ben Nassi

BGU and Fujitsu say this is the first study of its kind, which examines how lawmakers and drone developers are attempting to control drone usage.

The research, titled “Security and Privacy Challenges in the Age of Drones,” found that cyber security measures developed to keep these flying camera-laden vehicles safe are falling woefully short.

Drones are now used for military purposes, for pizza deliveries, for delivering lifesaving medication, and for surveillance and monitoring in agriculture. Drones and other forms of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) are also being tested as potential future transport options.

Unfortunately, it is the minority who can ruin it for the rest of us. Drone-related security incidents are reported on close to a daily basis, and it was only a few months ago that a single drone sighted around the grounds of the UK’s Gatwick Airport caused chaos and grounded flights, and resulted in the misery of countless passengers attempting to travel ahead of the Christmas holidays.

The researchers suggest in the report that the biggest challenge vendors face when it comes to drones and their potential impact on privacy and security is determining a drone’s purpose in a non-restricted area, also known as an “open-sky policy.”

“The cutting-edge technology and decreasing drone prices made them accessible to individuals and organizations, but has created new threats and recently caused an increase in drone-related incidents,” says Ben Nassi, a Ph.D. student from BGU’s Department of Software and Information Systems Engineering. “There are many difficulties that militaries, police departments and governments are seeking to overcome, as it is a recognized threat to critical infrastructure, operations and individuals.”

There are a number of ways that organizations are tackling privacy issues caused by drones. One of the new methods being developed is software able to physically track a drone.

However, these are easy to compromise, as shown by the research team in the video below (there is no sound in video):

The team also demonstrated an interesting attack method in which a drone was used as a conduit for delivering hacking hardware and radio systems to a target — which could be a smart home or an air-gapped business system — which was disguised as a perfectly innocent pizza delivery (no sound):

The report also suggests that left unchecked, drone use in populated areas “could result in cyberattacks, terrorism, crime, and threats to privacy.”

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