UAV’s (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles)

Some of the latest media news making rounds is concerned with drone technology. Recently, there have been multiple concerns tied around the vulnerability of the communication systems used by drones and the possible security breaches thereof. A security researcher demonstrated a few months ago at a San Francisco security conference, how easy it is to hack a drone from more than a mile away. This comes at a time when the government is keen to acquire UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) for its police and military. More astounding is the fact that the $30,000 drone can be hacked using hardware that costs less than $40.

The situation has been brought about by the upsurge in drone sales especially attributable to the vehicles’ efficiency and propensity. Drones are being used in a variety of ways, ranging from military missions to dropping off parcels by Amazon and firms of that ilk. Other people use them for hobbies such as aerial photography. As more people appreciate the efficiency of the quadcopters, demand has risen, leading to an upsurge in their production. This has ultimately led to security measures being taken as an afterthought in production. As such, high chances are, the security systems of most of the drones being produced are highly vulnerable to hackers.

There are a number of ways through which a hacker can gain control of an unmanned aerial vehicle with detrimental effects. A hoppy drone can be brought to the ground from an airborne state by sending it rogue commands. A group of students from John Hopkins University carried out a research and found that it is possible to send rogue messages to a drone from a computer and cause it to crash on the ground. If using the computer from a short range, one can send out information that contradicts that which the drone is programmed to receive, after gaining a backdoor access into the UAV’s system.

A second way through which a hacker can control an airborne drone is by sending it large packets of data than it is meant to receive. The processor ultimately malfunctions and sends the drone crashing to the ground. If the hacker can gain backdoor access to the drones system and communicate to the controller as the drone would, there could be a possible breach of security. What this means eventually, is that an unmanned aerial vehicle can be used for a purpose different from that which it was sent out. For instance, a military drone could be hacked by terrorists and its missiles diverted.

The good thing however, is that the government is now in the know, following the revelations from the security researchers. Stringent measures are sure to follow in order to seal all possible loopholes and avert disastrous repercussions. These media news are bound to cause a few ripples in the drone technology industry. Foremost, there will be efforts by producers themselves to stay ahead of competition by rectifying the system issues that have been identified. It is also expected that the government shall step up its regulation efforts in a bid to standardise the drone market. However, UAV appetite is not expected to reduce, but the industry players will have to invest a lot more in ensuring security standards are met and maintained in production.