Several bodies are adopting drone technology to smoothen their activities. From the military to commercial and government organizations, drones are almost everywhere, making them one of the greatest innovations in recent years. In addition, several people also invest in drones for recreational purposes, which is a direct reflection of the uptick in drones in recent years.
In January 2021 only, more than 1.8 million drones were registered by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), of which 71 percent of these registrations were for recreational purposes and 27 percent for commercial purposes. A Philly by Air survey estimated that at least 14 percent of Americans have flown drones, with 24 percent men and 10 percent women in the US owning at least one drone in 2021.
Drones are primarily preferred because they promise quality aerial imaging. Besides, they are easy to deploy and can easily be maneuvered to specific locations.
It comes with a price anyway, and this, you will have to take with a grain of salt if you are a drone enthusiast; you plan to get one or already own one. Now, drones can be targeted in criminal activities.
This implies that there is a chance of your drone being hacked and, even worse off, being used against you. In the worst scenario, a threat actor can hack your drone, steal it, or use a hacked drone to hack your other electronic devices.
Sadly, a motivated hacker has many options to choose from if they were willing to hack your drone. We explore the tactics in this guide and give tips on how to secure your drone. Keep reading.
How a drone can be hacked
Together with their professor, John Hopkins University engineering grad students poked holes into three risk profiles that threat actors can use to force drones to land or even make a drone crash. One of the options is bombarding a drone with several connection requests, which would overload its central processing unit and make it shut down and land.
The researchers also discovered that a hacker could send loads of data packets that exceed the overall buffer capacity in the drone’s flight application, making it crash. Finally, for the third risk profile, the researchers found that a motivated hacker can use a laptop in sending a fake digital packet to your drone’s ground controller, signaling to the drone that the packet was sent from the drone.
The drone would then ‘believe’ that it was the sender, something which would interrupt the contact with your drone, thereby forcing it to an emergency landing. Other than these risk profiles, a drone can also be hacked through a mechanism known as GPS spoofing.
In GPS spoofing, the hacker would feed your drone false GPS coordinates. If successful, your drone would ‘believe’ that it’s following the correct flight pattern while, in the real sense, it’s following a wrong flight pattern and being led to a location you didn’t intend it to go to.
This way, a hacker may steal your drone or even crash it on an object to damage it. This might be more costly for you if your drone had a camera mounted on it with your important images stored in the memory.
Despite these security risks, there is always something you can do to prevent your drone from being hacked and stolen or damaged. Here are seven drone security recommendations that you may find helpful.
1. Use of strong passwords is mandatory
The use of strong passwords to ensure security for your drone cannot be underestimated. But, unfortunately, this is almost always one of the ways hackers would want to force your drone to land and then steal or even damage it.
So, if you’re having a drone or planning to get one, the first thing you should aim for is ensuring that your base station app’s password is the hardest to guess for a hacker. You can achieve this by avoiding passwords used in previous privacy breaches and ensuring that your password contains a mix of special characters, numbers, and letters. Obviously, the hacker will try different combinations. Still, a password with special characters, numbers, and letters is difficult to guess, so there are high chances they’d get discouraged and leave your drone alone.
2. Your ground controller should be difficult to break through
The ground controller is the device you’re using to control your drone. It can be your mobile device, tablet, or computer. You must keep your ground controller malware-free to significantly reduce the risks of your drone being hacked and stolen or damaged.
You probably, already know this, but one of the options of making your ground controller hard to break through is ensuring that all the programs are up to date. When installing apps or programs, be sure only to install the apps or programs from well-known publishers.
You can make your ground controller stronger against attacks by having the latest versions of antivirus and VPN. You must have the latest antivirus versions because several new virus strains are developed, and your antivirus software can only detect and help you remove already identified virus strains.
A good VPN (Virtual Private Network) will also help safeguard your privacy on the internet. A good VPN connection will ensure that all your connections are encrypted and anonymous, which may help you prevent DDoS attacks whereby your drone is flooded with requests to make it crash or do an emergency landing.
3. Keep your drone’s firmware updated
To begin with, you should get your drone from a reputable manufacturer. This way, you can be assured that they will release patches in the event of new security threats.
With that in mind, if you have updated firmware, you can rest assured that you have the least risks of suffering an attack that would lead to your drone being damaged or stolen. This is because hackers will most likely target drones with weak security systems to launch attacks on.
4. Have a specified limit of the number of devices connected to the base station
This is a security issue for drones which is relatively common. If you wish to reduce the risks of falling victim to a successful drone hijacking, you will need first to protect your base station.
By specifying the number of devices connected to your base station at a time, you typically deny potential hackers the chance of hijacking your signal. If they cannot hijack your signal, they can hardly use it in controlling other devices.
5. Do not make your flight paths easy targets
As mentioned earlier, a hacker may feed your drone with fake GPS coordinates and then redirect it or even cause it to crash. To achieve this, the hacker would need to establish a connection with your drone to control it.
They achieve this by intercepting your drone’s wireless connection and then using their own connection to replace it. So now, you can safeguard your drone against GPS spoofing by varying your flight paths.
This is important because if you use consistent paths, a hacker may use this to determine where your drone may be at a specific time and then target it in attacks. It will also help if you keep your drone in view to know outright when something feels fishy.
6. Aim for the seL4 OS drones
The seL4 Operating System (OS) is a new operating system installed in some drones but one of the most advanced drone security mechanisms. Ideally, it is the gold standard for drone security at the time of writing this piece.
seL4 OS works by isolating the functions of your stone to make it difficult for malicious actors to compromise the entire system. However, since this is a new advancement in drone technology, only a few drones have it, and a good drone with this OS will most likely command a premium price.
7. Activate the Return to Home (RTH) mode
This is a feature that many drones have, and it may come to your rescue if your drone is at risk of being stolen. This feature works by forcing your drone to get back home (a specified location) if its signal is jammed or lost. At least this may protect you from hijacking techniques aimed at jamming the signal to force your drone to an emergency landing.
It will also help if you aim for high-quality drones. They may come at a high price but offer great value to your money security-wise.
About the author:
Leon Collier is a proficient UK-based blogger and academic writer with vast experience working with agencies offering dissertation writing services. Leon loves to play tabletop games and read books, so those are what you can expect to find him doing when he isn’t busy writing. Follow him on Twitter @LeonCollier12.