University Researchers Hack into Active Drones
Monday, July 02, 2012
Spoofing Testbed at the University of Texas Radionavigation Laboratory
The federal government’s plan to allow potentially thousands of drones to fly through U.S. airspace in the coming years could result in disaster, unless a “gaping hole” in the unmanned aircraft’s navigation system is corrected.
A team of researchers from the University of Texas-Austin demonstrated recently to federal officials that drones with unencrypted computer systems can be hacked into (known as “spoofing”) and their controls taken over.
This means that unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) could be seized by terrorists and used as weapons, just as the September 11, 2001, hijackers did with piloted jets.
“Spoofing a GPS receiver on a UAV is just another way of hijacking a plane,” Assistant professor Todd E. Humphreys, director of the university’s Radionavigation Laboratory, told Fox News.
“In 5 or 10 years you have 30,000 drones in the airspace,” he added. “Each one of these could be a potential missile used against us.”
Humphreys demonstrated to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Department of Homeland Security how a drone with an unencrypted GPS system can be hacked into by using a spoofer that allowed his team to redirect a small UAV flying over the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The experiment was conducted again at the University of Texas’ stadium for Fox News.
Military drones have encrypted GPS systems. But many civilians ones do not. Congress ordered the FAA in February to develop rules allowing government and commercial use of UAVs in American airspace by 2015.
To Learn More:
Drones Vulnerable To Terrorist Hijacking, Researchers Say (by John Roberts, Fox News)
Commercial Drones and GPS Spoofers a Bad Mix (by Robert Charette, IEEE Spectrum)
Straight Talk on Anti-Spoofing (by Kyle Wesson, Daniel Shepard and Todd E. Humphreys, GPS World)
Here’s Who’s Buying Drones: Are Local Cops Watching You from the Sky? (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)
Arrival of Domestic Drones Challenges Air Safety (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)
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