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Cybersecurity and Drones – A Rising Threat?
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What are the risks and How can they be reduced

Drones, which are part of the UAV (unnamed aerial vehicles) group, have certainly seen an increase in popularity in the past few years. The global drone market is expected to grow from $14 billion in 2018 to over $43 billion in 2024. Long gone are the days when drones were only used for military purposes – today they can basically be purchased and flown by anyone. They can be affordable, come in all sizes, and can get as sophisticated as you can imagine.

Drones are now used for a multitude of purposes, ranging from recreational use, photography and filmmaking, agriculture, to surveillance and so many other uses. This technology will soon even be utilized by Amazon to deliver small packages, has already been employed by Domino’s to bring pizza, and UPS has used it to ship medical samples in the US.

But technology like this can equally be used for good and bad purposes and could easily turn into a sci-fi nightmare. And one of the biggest concerns here is that drones can be hacked, or other drones can be used to hack electronic devices and gather data without one’s consent.

The malicious uses of drones

Drones can become a threat to your privacy since they can be used as spying devices.

Numerous cases have been reported so far. To name a few, a couple flew a drone to watch their neighbors and ended up being arrested, and burglars are now reportedly using drones to scout houses they intend to rob.

Privacy-related incidents may be so common since many countries don’t have any drone laws in place, or drone users are simply unaware of them. But there are some countries that did release regulations. For example, the UK is currently in the process of updating their Drones Bill, most probably as a response to the famous Gatwick Airport incident, when drone sightings stopped 1,000 flights from December 19-21, 2018 and affected the travel plans of around 140,000 people. The United States has also released regulations for drone users, and you can go through them here if you are flying your drones in the US.

Some drones can even see through walls by employing Wi-Fi and 3D imaging, and could easily create 3D plans of building that could facilitate criminals’ access inside them.

Not only that, other prominent issues are related to cyber-attacks, which may have seemed impossible to happen in the past but could now be carried out using drone technology. Drones can now be used to hack servers, spy on networks, extract data, and block communications.

Corporate networks can be heavily affected by the malicious use of drones, so companies need to have solid security measures in place to prevent unwanted access and protect themselves from cyber warfare attacks.

How hackers steal data with drones

Attackers can attach a small computer (such as Raspberry Pi) to a drone, fly it over places where they wouldn’t normally be able or allowed to enter, and then exploit Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or RFID (Radio-frequency identification) vulnerabilities.

A cybersecurity company proved that a drone could basically be connected to any devices, like smartphones or laptops, during the 2014 Black Hat security conference in Singapore. They used a drone to intercept data from the attendees’ phones with a software dubbed Snoopy that ran on the minicomputer attached to the drone. It could mimic Wi-Fi networks that victims were connected to in the past and then they were able to steal any information that was used on the device, including bank details and passwords.

Also, other sources have shown that drones equipped with a radio transceiver could be used to hijack Bluetooth mice. This means that any other Bluetooth-connected devices could be accessed, such as keyboards, from which attackers could obtain keystrokes and figure out users’ login credentials.
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