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Do you think hacking a drone is possible or not? Well let me answer this question for you real quick.

A drone is essentially a flying computer and is as hackable as any other laptop or desktop device.

 Security researchers have shown that many consumer drones and some commercial drones have serious vulnerabilities that could allow them to be hacked up to a mile away.

 Vulnerable models include some of the drones from Yuneec, Xiaomi, Parrot, DJI, and 3DR, as well as the Aerialtronics police drone. 

These vulnerabilities raise serious safety and privacy issues for consumers and enterprises and their clients.

Watch this video from CNBC International for more information

Security Measures Against Drone Hacking

Most manufacturers have developed basic security measures to minimize the possibility of hacking. To solve hacking and other issues, a new industry has emerged in commercial drone software. 

Drone flight and data management platforms are being developed that control all functions with an encrypted, unified interface that is more secure. Much has been done in this area to provide more secure UAVs and platforms.

 However, vulnerabilities still exist, as evidenced by multiple websites in the U.S., the EU, and Russia that list vulnerable drone models and include the tools and scripts to hack them.

Drone Hacking - How It is Done

Method 1

To gain control of a drone, hackers first need to find them. A UAV and the pilot’s base station can be detected using radio frequency (RF) sensors. Other methods include radar, infrared (IR) sensors and acoustic sensors.

Once a drone has been located, there are several ways to hack it. 

One way is by spoofing or simulating the GPS signal the drone uses to navigate. A GPS signal simulator concatenated with an RF frontend can generate GPS signals that appear authentic. 

This could be efficient against commercial GPS receivers – especially if the spoofing signal strength is higher than the authentic GPS satellite signals. By feeding it false GPS coordinates, the drone could be directed to fly to a specific location or to crash into a building, vehicle, or person. 

Or it could be forced to land near the hacker so they can steal it. Similarly, a GPS jammer can be used to cause vulnerable drones to land, fly off course, return home, or crash by preventing the drone from receiving GPS signals.

Method 2

Another method is through jamming or hijacking the command and control signal between the operator and their drone. Jamming this signal could have a similar effect to GPS jamming – except for some drones that have a “return to home” failsafe if they lose the control signal. 

The radio signal is not always encrypted and can be decoded using a packet sniffer. If a hacker hijacks the control signal, they may gain partial or full control of the drone and its systems, camera, and sensors.

Method 3

A third method that is also vulnerable to spoofing is the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ADS-B system used for air traffic control and by drones and other aircraft to communicate with each other and avoid collisions.

 A hacked drone could also be used to broadcast false ADS-B signals. This could cause confusion for other aircraft or ground control at an airport with potentially fatal consequences.

Downlink threats are another category that includes intercepting video, images, or data broadcast from the drone to the base station. 

Video footage taken by drones (especially consumer models) is often transmitted via an unencrypted radio format that could theoretically be intercepted, stored, and transferred by anyone within range.

Software Programs Used for Drone Hacking

Maldrone aka Malware for Drone Hacking

This is the malware which hijacks your personal drone. When we talk about Maldrone, this is a type of malware specifically aimed at UAVs and via Internet connections, you can hack into drones. 

We need to consider that drones are essentially flying computers, and so they are susceptible to the same type of hacks as a laptop or smartphone.

According to the researcher, Maldrone can be used to remotely hijack drones via entry through the backdoor and one of them is the Linux system. 

With that you can easily take over the malicious code is able to kill a drone’s autopilot and take control remotely. But the malware isn’t the only problem related to the increased use of UAVs, there are others.

SkyJack aka Zombie For Drone Hacking

It lets you hunt down and hack other drones from the air. So how, exactly, does SkyJack work? 

It is a drone software that runs with your drone and actually uses a Raspberry Pi computer, flies around and looking for other drones.

 As soon as it finds any other drones, it hacks into that drone’s wireless network, disconnects the owner and then takes over that drone, creating an army of zombie drones under your control. SkyJack is an application that runs off of a Linux machine.

how to prevent drones from being hacked

Step 1: Protecting Your Controller

If you’re controlling your drone via a computer, tablet or mobile device, it’s absolutely essential to maintain a malware-free environment. Should you lose control of your machine, it could mean catastrophic results. A drone crashing from any height could cause serious damage and could even end someone’s life.

It has already happened to the US military where one of their computers was being used as the drone ground station while at the same time, they installed games on the computer. This computer became infected with malware and allowed the drone to be hacked into.

Thankfully, malware is something you have a lot of control over. Two services will be instrumental in protecting your controlling device.

Service 1 : An AntiVirus
Service 2 : A VPN(Virtual Private Network)

Step 2: Do Not get Trapped

Recent drone hacks have taught us at least something about how hackers can gain control of drones. By spoofing fake GPS coordinates, they can crash or re-direct a drone. But to do so, hackers first need to establish some sort of connection with the drone.

The best way to avoid this, outside of waiting for better drones, is to monitor the location of your own and vary your flight paths. Consistent paths may be used to learn where your drone will be and make it an easy target. Keeping your drone in view will also let you know if something is going wrong.

 

Step 3: Buying a Quality Drone

Cheap drones are fun to fly around with, but they’re also some of the most vulnerable ones. In order to keep costs down, manufacturers of budget drones don’t keep things like security in mind. The end result is something that operates okay at best, and it’s especially vulnerable. Protection starts with the manufacturer, and so should your purchasing considerations.

Don’t cut corners when you’re purchasing a drone. Drones can easily climb up into the thousands of dollars, but it’s worth it to know you have a drone that will last a long time and be able to withstand some common threats. Cheap drones wear out or break down quickly anyway – invest once in something of top level quality and focus on protecting what you have. If you’re diligent about maintenance, a pricier drone will last nearly forever.

I would recommend buying drones like DJI Mavic Pro 2

Conclusion

Consider flying your drone in more remote spaces where there is less technology. Hacking a drone requires a certain degree of proximity unless the hack is done over the device sending orders, so you’ll get better results flying when there’s no one else around.

For the moment though, rest easy knowing that your drone is probably not a high-priority target. Unless your drone can fire missiles or is carrying high-value packages, most hackers probably won’t take much interest.

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