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Drone Hacking | What is it and How to Prevent it

Articles December 9, 2016

Drones, by themselves, come with a lot of security issues if not used with precaution. Drone hacking is a topic that has recently been shrouded in controversy as people continue to raise questions about the safety of using drones. The severity of this situation has been a concern among many people and with hackers taking control of almost all wireless devices, drones too have faced their share of threat from hackers.

drone hacking

Drone Hacking, What is it and How to Prevent it

Drone hacking is a more serious issue because a hacked drone can be misused in a lot of different ways and the implications can be very serious. To understand how perilous the issue is, let us first understand a few things about how drones are hacked, and what can be done with a hacked drone. It is only then that we can now discuss few possible ways to secure your drone from the hackers.

Drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) are no more used merely for military purposes. Commercial drones and hobby drones have become very popular. Hobbyists also conduct drone races and contests. Buying a drone from popular online shopping sites, like Amazon, is also quite simple. Recently, hackers have developed tools that are able to hack drones. There are hackers who even claim to have hacked police and military drones.

No matter how well the drones have been encrypted, hackers seem to find their way around the system. Some of them are known to have remarked that hacking a drone isn’t complex at all. If that is the case with military drones, one could easily guess the plight of hobby drones and other commercial-purpose drones. Commercial drones come with less encryption than the military drones, thus making them more vulnerable to hacking.

Perhaps hacking into the system and taking full control of the operation of the drone is difficult, but corrupting a drone and breaking the control of the original operator over the drone is much simpler for skilled hackers.

The technology in some drones is pretty vulnerable. One way hackers can exploit the vulnerability is to make use of the errors in a particular technology and try to send network penetration signals that can distort the connection between the drone and its original controller. Sometimes this could be done by inundating the electronic device with several requests for overriding control. This causes a strain on the system and it might eventually give up and shut down. This means that even the original owner of the drone would have lost control over it, thus causing it to crash.

This is just one of the many ways a hacker can meddle with a drone. The procedure to hack a drone, or any device for that matter, is readily available on the internet. Hacking tools, GPS interference equipment and jammers to hamper the drone’s original control signals are all available. This makes it easy for any hacker to sit at his computer and hack any drone. Hobbyist drones are in fact the easiest to hack, owing to their simpler system structure.

Drone hacking is a serious issue depending on how much control the hacker has on the drone and what they plan to do with it. If the hacker just manages to jam your control signal and cause your drone to crash land, then it wouldn’t be much of a problem in a normal situation. But the problem starts when a hacker is able to control your drone. If a hacker can gain access to your drone’s control, he would be able to override your commands and could use your drone for any purpose. Besides being a threat, this can also land you in trouble.

  • Most drones come with cameras in them. Drones can easily fly over houses, and record photos or videos. If a hacker can access a drone, this can lead to grave consequences in terms of invasion of privacy.
  • Military or security drones might come armed with ammunitions or guns, and if they are hacked they can cause some serious damage.
  • Drones, if hacked by terrorists or criminals, can breach security.

Manufacturers, owing to the need to establish themselves in the market are coming up with a lot of features in drones. But whether the complementary security features come with them is a big question mark. It is also the responsibility of the drone owner to use it wisely.

What can you do about drone hacking?

  •  The main responsibility of securing a drone from hackers is with the manufacturers. They should start using more rigid systems and better encryption
  • There are also systems used by higher level military drone makers that can prevent drone hacking. This is by including a method by which the drone’s abnormal behavior can be tracked and the operator can be alerted.
  • The efficiency of the security of the drone’s control device also comes into the picture. If you are controlling your drone from your PC, and if your PC is easy to hack then it makes the drone hacking process easy. There are more expensive high-security drones that come with their custom control devices that are secure.
  • The pattern in which your drone operates, if repetitive and predictable, makes things easier for the hackers. Random flying patterns of drones are difficult to trace and gain control over.
  • Always purchase a drone from a reliable retailer. You could choose a trusted seller from online shopping sites or buy directly from the manufacturer websites. But when you buy, remember to understand the technology used and its limitations and weak points. Remember that your own drone, if hacked, can cause you a lot of issues, so make a wise decision.

Cyber-attacks are on the rise. Though we could rely on better technology to provide better security, we should always remember that advanced security technology is also being accompanied by advanced hacking technology. So irrespective of what measures we might take to secure our drone, hackers might find their way. Hence, it is important to exercise caution while using a drone.

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