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Dronejacking and How to Help Prevent It

Flying drone to illustrate drone jacking
April 11, 2017

What is dronejacking?

Dronejacking occurs when hackers infiltrate drone technology to use the aerial vehicles for criminal purposes, whether to damage the drones, steal the packages being carried or steal the drones themselves. As drone technology becomes more mainstream in public and commerce, experts believe this form of cybercrime will become much more prevalent. According to Bruce Snell, cybersecurity and privacy director at Intel Security, “It is just a matter of time before we see stories of hijacked drones showing up in the evening news.”1

What You
Should Know

Dronejacking is a cybercrime of the future. It occurs when hackers commandeer drones for malicious purposes.

What You
Can Do

Keep your drones safe by limiting physical access and using antivirus software.

In 2017, engineering graduate students at Johns Hopkins University discovered 3 different ways to jam drones mid-flight.2

How does dronejacking work?

There are currently two different methods for hijacking a drone:

  • Jamming device: This machine blocks radio signals that control the vehicle, which causes the drone to emergency land, allowing a criminal to steal it.
  • Radio transmitter: Named “Icarus,” this gadget works by exploiting DMSx, a radio signal protocol some drones use. Instead of landing the drone, it allows the hacker to take complete control over the vehicle’s flight functionality.3

What industries could dronejacking affect?

  • Retail – Some e-commerce companies are currently planning to deliver their merchandise with drones. Shipping companies are also considering adding drones to their fleets.
  • Farming – Some farmers today are employing drones to monitor their fields. With a bird’s-eye view, they’re able to make watering and fertilizing decisions.
  • Photography – Professional cinematographers are now operating expensive drones to shoot scenes. Criminals would easily be drawn to stealing this high-quality machinery.
  • Law enforcement – Many agencies are now using drones for crowd surveillance. These drones may become natural targets for hackers.

Preparing for the future

Manufacturers are responsible for advancing drone cybersecurity. It’s up to them to add advanced encryption and authentication features to their models. Experts recommend that manufacturers create mechanisms to prevent data jamming, such as navigational sensors which could detect and prevent possible malicious activity.4

How companies can help prevent dronejacking

The simple act of prioritizing cybersecurity can help a company stave off future attacks. Task an executive or employee to manage new cybersecurity threats. Have them work across multiple teams to implement best practices for preventing dronejacking. Consider creating the following protocols:

  • Limit drone access to select employees. The fewer employees that contact the vehicles, the safer they’ll be.
  • Keep your drone controllers free of malware by using antivirus programs. This includes any computers, tablets or mobile devices used to control the device. (Learn more about malware and ransomware in our article here).
  • Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to prevent hackers from gaining access to your drone’s internet connection. VPNs encrypt your connection and make data usage anonymous.
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