This guy claims he can hijack San Francisco’s $35,000 police drones from a mile away

hacker claims ability to hijack police drones drone
Think drones are scary? Then you might not like the notion of hackable $35,000 police drones flying in your airspace. Unfortunately, that notion is something of a reality — at least according to one hacker who says he’s capable of commandeering a very expensive, very high-tech quadcopter from over a mile away.

On Wednesday’s RSA security conference in San Francisco, security researcher Nils Rodday revealed a number of rather alarming flaws in the city’s advanced, police-grade unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that make it possible for him “to take full control over the quadcopter with just a laptop and a cheap radio chip connected via USB.” Due to the absence of any sort of encryption technology between the drone and its controller (called a “telemetry box,”), taking over one of these UAVs isn’t a particularly complicated process. In fact, if you’re able to reverse engineer the flight software, you’re able to completely hijack the quadcopter, sending your own controls while blocking all signals from the legitimate operator.

“You can inject packets and alter waypoints, change data on the flight computer, set a different coming home position,” Rodday says. “Everything the original operator can do, you can do as well.”

So what’s leading to this massive security flaw? Rodday has narrowed it down to two primary culprits — the weak “WEP” or “wired-equivalent privacy” encryption used to connect the telemetry module and a user’s tablet, and even worse, the incredibly insecure encryption (or lack thereof) that connects the telemetry model to the UAV itself.

Rodday, who now works at IBM, has since informed drone manufacturers to the breaches he’s uncovered, and tells Wired that the company plans to address the issue when it updates its line of drones. But that means that the UAVs already on the market are fair game for hacking, and from quite a distance at that.

This is by no means the first time that the security of such drones has been called into question. A few years ago in 2013, Samy Kamkar, a hacker in his own right, showed how his homemade Raspberry Pi equipped drone could be used to hack into other drones mid-flight. The vast majority of the problems he discovered, he said, were contingent on insecure Wi-Fi connections. “It’s all the same story: really poor authentication or no authentication,” Kamkar told Wired.

So before drones can be used by police, they need to be secured. Because nothing could be worse than a gun-equipped UAV that has been taken over by malicious hackers.

Emerging Tech

Notre Dame fire: How drones and a robot called Colossus helped limit the damage

The fire that devastated the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral on Monday shocked many around the world. In a bid to prevent even worse damage to the structure, Paris firefighters opted to deploy drones and a robot called Colossus.
Emerging Tech

SpaceX’s main Falcon Heavy booster is lost at sea after falling off drone ship

SpaceX has lost the center core of its Falcon Heavy rocket after a successful mission last week that ended with it landing on a drone ship. SpaceX said rough seas resulted in the rocket toppling over and falling into the ocean.
Emerging Tech

Watch the fearsome DroneHunter X3 pluck rogue UAVs out of the sky

How do you stop enemy drones in their tracks? DroneHunter X3 is a new autonomous anti-drone technology which outruns and then captures rogue drones in midair. Check it out in action.
Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite shows currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Emerging Tech

Feast your eyes on the wildest, most elaborate Rube Goldberg machines ever built

Want to see something totally mesmerizing? Check out several of the best Rube Goldberg machines from across the internet, including one that serves cake and others that do ... nothing particularly useful.
Emerging Tech

Watch a pack of SpotMini robot dogs perform a terrifying feat of strength

Boston Dynamics' SpotMini robotic dog is now going around in packs, and the results are somewhat concerning. Check out the video to see what kind of shenanigans 10 of them got up to recently ...
Emerging Tech

How emotion-tracking A.I. will change computing as we know it

Affectiva is just one of the startups working to create emotion-tracking A.I. that can work out how you're feeling. Here's why this could change the face of computing as we know it.
Emerging Tech

New gunfire-detection system alerts police of shooters in seconds, not minutes

The Safe Zone Gunfire Detector is a fast gunfire-detection system that could help avert potential tragedies in public places like schools, malls, or anywhere a mass shooting might occur.
Emerging Tech

NASA chooses a special spot for its next crewed moon landing

Following the U.S. government's announcement last month of a desire to see American astronauts set foot on the moon again in the next five years, NASA has revealed a location on the lunar surface where it would most like to land.
Emerging Tech

Adidas has created a running shoe that’s made to be remade

Adidas has unveiled the Futurecraft Loop running shoe that it claims is the first performance footwear to be 100% recyclable. The shoe is the latest green initiative by the sportswear company and will go on sale in 2021.
Emerging Tech

Yale scientists restore cellular activity in a pig’s brain hours after its death

In what some may view as a porcine version of Frankenstein, Yale University scientists have restored circulation and cellular activity in a pig’s brain four hours after its death. The study is likely to be used to study brain function
Emerging Tech

Russia’s robot news anchor gives human TV presenters hope

Human news anchors anxious about robots taking their jobs will be feeling reassured this week after the appearance on Russian TV of a news-reading android that clearly needs a bit of work.
Smart Home

I have seen the future, and it’s full of salad-making robots

Think that robots bussing tables, tossing salads and baking bread is a futuristic concept? It's actually not as far away as you might think. Robots took center stage at a food robotics summit in San Francisco this week, where they showed…
Emerging Tech

NASA is building an inflatable space robot named King Louie

NASA is funding an inflatable robot called King Louie which could travel to the stars in deflated form and then be blown up when and where required. Here is why that's so exciting.