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Drone Hacking: Is it Possible?

by Mubi 

Drone Hacking

As the name suggests, DJI surveillance drones are designed for various purposes such as law enforcement, capturing footage, firefighting, farm security, search and rescue missions, anti-poaching operations, mining security, and many more.

The drone is fitted with a computerized system connected to the controller to help you control flight movement and altitude. Like computers, hackers can compromise the system remotely since it relies on signals being transmitted from the design to the controller and vice versa.

Before discussing how drones are hacked and how to prevent such incidents from occurring, it’s imperative to note that you should consider the rules and regulations put in place by the local government before flying your drone.

Be wary of other people’s privacy, especially if you intend to fly the drone in public and other secured places such as military grounds. Failing to comply with the set regulations can result in legal tussles or your drone being shot down and confiscated. You don’t want that to happen, so take the time to research the rules and regulations before heading out.

How Are DJI Surveillance Drones Hacked?

DJI surveillance drones are specially designed to enable users to capture images and video footage of target areas for different reasons, such as security. They are fitted with high-resolution cameras that can zoom in on items and people on the ground with great precision. The recording is saved on a hard disk and later downloaded on a computer for analysis.

Unfortunately, hackers have advanced systems that enable them to hack drones on a fly. Once they infiltrate the system, they can easily control its movement. That means you won’t be able to fly the drone in the preferred direction and altitude.

The world case scenario is the hacker opting to crash the drone or download the images and videos saved in your hard drive and delete any metadata. Surprisingly, most drone owners have not put measures to protect their devices from hacking.

GPS spoofing is one of the most common ways drones are hacked. Here is a detailed overview of what it entails.

What is Drone GPS Spoofing?

Drones fly in a particular direction based on the GPS and the commands you send to the system. Using advanced spoofing techniques, the hackers can send false GPS coordinates to the drone, thereby gaining complete control of which direction it flies.

As mentioned earlier, a malicious hacker can decide to crash the drone by directing it to a building or any other obstacle to ensure that you never retrieve the information stored in the hard drive or find out who they are.

There have been instances where hackers have used GPS spoofing to steal drones by re-routing them. As the owner, you won’t have any way of flying back the drone to your location, and for a minute, you might think that the controller is faulty.

It’s also important to note that the radio signals used to send commands to the drone are usually unencrypted. Therefore, hackers with knowledge of intercepting and decoding signals using a packet analyzer can change their route in seconds. If not, the signal can be jammed, leaving the drone on its own when airborne.

The market is flooded with different types of drones. Finding the right one can be an uphill task, especially if it’s your first-time shopping for one. Don’t worry, though; here is a detailed guide on the different DJI surveillance drones to help you make the right decision.

How to Protect My Drone from Hacking?

Every day, hundreds of readers ask this question in their quest to keep their drones safe. Here are five different ways of protecting your DJI surveillance drone from hacking.

1. Join a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

A virtual private network (VPN) prevents hackers from intercepting the radio signals. It does this by acting as a secure gateway that encrypts the signals. Compare the different VPNs available and consult widely to find one that best suits your drone.

2. Regularly Update your Drone’s Firmware

Drone manufacturing companies regularly release updates to make the drone’s firmware hack-proof. Most updates include security patches to protect the drone from the latest detected security threats.

Update its firmware as soon as you get a notification from the manufacturer that there is an update. The security patches will keep you miles ahead of the hackers and ensure that no unauthorized personnel access your photos, video footage, map views, and other private information.

3. Secure your Base Station App with a Strong Password

Lockout anyone who may be interested in gaining control of your drone by locking your base station application with a password. Include numbers, special characters, and mix letters to strengthen the password. Please write down the password in your notebook as a reference if you forget it.

4. Secure Your Laptop or Smartphone

These drone hacking prevention tips apply to people who use their smartphones or laptops as controllers. Keep the two devices secure by installing a robust antivirus. Be wary of links that you click on to prevent hackers lurking in the dark from ever installing spyware on your computer. Regularly scan the smartphone and laptop to identify viruses that may have been established since the last scan.

Related: How to Hack a Phone?

5. Leverage the Drones “return to home” Mode

Return to home mode is a unique feature installed on drones to direct them to fly back to the base station on their own. This mode will come in handy if a hacker ever jams your signals or the battery dies when the drone is airborne. Also, if a hacker re-routes the drone to a different location from the original coordinates, the setting will enable you to recover the drone. However, RTH is not immune to hacking techniques such as GPS spoofing.

Final Thoughts

DJI surveillance cameras are the best for capturing video footage and images. They offer an excellent aerial view of the target locations. By applying the above five drone hacking prevention tips, you will significantly reduce the chances of the drone ever being hacked. Please share your flying drone experience and tips for keeping hackers at bay in the comment section. 

About the author 

Mubi Ace

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