As the drone industry emerges and businesses realize the potential and value of these flying unmanned systems, researchers want to make sure these devices are safe and secure. Researchers from Johns Hopkins University computer science department recently looked into the security of drones in order to determine how easily hackers could obtain control of them.
"You see it with a lot of new technology, [where] security is often an afterthought,” said Lanier A. Watkins, who supervised the university’s drone research. “The value of our work is in showing that the technology in these drones is highly vulnerable to hackers."
The researchers were able to identify three distinct ways hackers could send rogue commands and interfere with nearby drones. According to the researchers, while the benefits of drones are undeniable, businesses need to make sure they aren’t overlooking the security aspects as they rush to satisfy their customers’ needs.
Through a series of tests, the researchers were first able to bring down a drone by overloading it with about 1,000 wireless connection requests; crashing it by sending it a large data package that exceeded its capacity; and overriding its mission.
"We found three points that were actually vulnerable, and they were vulnerable in a way that we could actually build exploits for," Watkins said. "We demonstrated here that not only could someone remotely force the drone to land, but they could also remotely crash it in their yard and just take it."
The researchers didn’t disclose the makes and models of the drones tested, but hope their research will help commercial drone services put a bigger emphasis on safety and security rather than relying on bug fixes.