Drone Aircraft Hacked


University of Texas professor Todd Humphreys recently led a team of students who used GPS spoofing to take control of aerial drones.

"One student involved in the University of Texas spoofing research, combining custom-developed software as well as $1,000 in parts, described it as a 'fusion of electrical engineering and aerospace engineering,'" writes InformationWeek's Mathew J. Schwartz.

"The spoofer convinces the target drone into believing all the information it is being fed is legitimate -- that nothing is unusual," writes VentureBeat's Meghan Kelly. "He then is able to change the drone’s course to his liking."

"[Humphreys'] technique uses a miniature helicopter that overpowers the drones' GPS system and then feeds it alternate coordinates, giving him control over its destination," writes The Verge's Evan Rodgers. "This isn't the first aerial drone security vulnerability to be identified -- GPS jammers, which can be easily purchased online, can confuse a drone's onboard computer, forcing it to land immediately. While signal jamming is effective in all types of drones, this spoofing technique can only be used on civilian drones with unencrypted GPS systems."

"Drones have many domestic uses, from law enforcement surveillance to environmental monitoring, and make a lot of previously difficult and expensive things cheap and easy," writes Forbes' John McQuaid. "But if, over the course of a few years, we have thousands of drones in the skies, run or overseen by a hodgepodge of federal, state and local government agencies and private companies, it’s a recipe not just for possible erosions of civil liberties, but for danger."