Sunday, November 12

Drones & cyber-attacks: Two rising trends in the ever expanding IT world

As wireless tech and digital circuitry becomes integral against the rising number of consumer and industrial goods, so does grows the opportunities for cyber-criminals to manipulate the technology for their cause. Drones or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) nowadays are considered an emerging security issue both as cyber-attack targets and potential vectors to malicious doings.

Expanded influence

After successful inclusion in military and intelligence applications, drones today are a rapid adoption in the commercial sector as well. These Unmanned Aerial Vehicles are a perfect substitute for traditional delivery methods and the perfect example is dispatching paramedics to disaster-struck Caribbean islands post-hurricane season as well as the deadly earthquake in Mexico.

Cyber defense center, food chains, retail services as well as restaurant chains in some of the most tech-advanced countries are routinely using these mini flying vehicles to meet ever-rising customer demands for super-fast service.

That being said, UAVs have been successfully deployed to supply chain logistics associated with the pharmaceutical industry, allowing on-time and crucial delivery of fresh blood plasma and drugs to remote areas that otherwise are inaccessible to various transportation.

Drones so far also proved their worth being a reconnaissance and delivery agents among the healthcare and emergency service sectors. In the agriculture sector, drones can plot successful pattern to monitor irrigation and health of the crops as they grow through infrared and other integrated technologies.

Cameras for still photography and video recording are mounted on UAVs provide sharp and exceptional imagery to promote real estate market as well as documentation of special events like sports or any other public gatherings.


It’s, however, most unfortunate that even being widespread doesn’t make drones 100% safe as many UAVs come with integral and potentially serious design errors.

Some were also showcased back in 2015 by a cyber-defense center researcher whose detailed analysis of the configuration, microprocessors and flight controllers revealed some popular units to have a number of weaknesses.

These were associated to both telemetry links streaming data through serial port connections that can capture, modify and inject information. The UAVs connections to the ground station interface enable hackers to take complete control of the vehicles whose data links were spoofed.

The deployed protocols on ground station applications that enable communication were found to be unsecured which let hackers to install malware directly on the systems managing ground operations. With this, telemetry feed monitoring the UAVs and facilitating communication were compromised thus transmitting malicious data and altering pre-set flight trajectory.

In an ideal scenario, all models that are tested routinely follow pre-programmed routes especially with services such as product delivery, courier, and a few military applications. Such manipulation points to alarming consequences in the field that lead to the theft of precious cargo, product tampering and so on. A worst-case scenario would be a redirection of these vehicles for delivery of biological warfare, explosives and terrorist payloads so on.

File transfer concerns

While movement of the drone is just a single aspect of potential vulnerability, still imaging and video recording can transmit live links back to their operators thus enabling them to manoeuvre these machines in real-time. Hackers and cyber-criminals are then able to perform surveillance, intelligence and espionage thereby rendering visual and location details to the third-parties who can perform malicious operations against valuable targets.

Wireless vulnerabilities – Cyber-attacks via drones

Given their small size, maneuverability, onboard processing power, photographic equipment as well as connectivity, drones are just like laptops and smart devices in the sky. No wonder they’re a threat to information security!

Unsecured wireless networks are considered vulnerable to attack scenarios envisioned, allowing them to plunge right into the hotspot. They can stage malicious data injections, Man in the Middle Attacks and similar assaults on the guest and short-range Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and many other wireless connections.


The success of these attacks is further empowered as traditional security service operators assume their systems and strategies 100% safe only to realize they’ve already been compromised.

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