What is the best way to test your security systems when you work in computers and/or software? Simple, ask the experts to hack it for you! That’s what IT firms have been doing for years now, and recently, the Department of Homeland Security decided to adopt the same tactic. Using a team from the University of Texas at Austin, the DHS asked them to test security on one of their infamous drones.
The team, led by professor Todd Humphreys, was offered $1,000 if they could successfully hack into a drone and order it to fly off course. Using this money, they invested in some simple off-the-shelf electronics and got to work. In the end, they were successful and were able to “spoof” the GPS on the Drone and send it into a dive, forcing it to level out shortly before crashing.
Naturally, this raised some obvious concerns. If a few specialists with $1,000 worth of equipment could hack the navigation system of a security drone, then foreign armies could do the same to military drones could likely do it with ease. What’s more, earlier this year, Congress ordered the FAA to draft laws and regulations for the commercial and government use of the drones in American airspace.
Airmail is another option, where companies like FedEx would use drones to deliver parcels all across the country. And of course, domestic surveillance drones are something that are being widely adapted for use. With this mind, Humphreys and the DHS are wondering how hard it might be to turn a domestic UAV into a terrorist weapon, much as US planes were on 9/11.
Scary stuff! But then again, this is why these exercises are conducted. By paying others to find the holes, its that much easier to patch them and ensure no one else ever can. As such, I think we all sleep a little safer knowing that drones are just spying on us, and not trying to kill us… yet!