Drones and Cyber Security: A Threat from the Clouds to the Cloud

Drones and Cyber Security

Drones and Cyber Security: A Threat from the Clouds to the Cloud

UAS stands for Unmanned Aerial System and is often called Unmanned Aircraft System. These systems are made up of electronic and electromechanical components of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, a remote electronic controller, and a command-and-control data system link that will connect the two sets needed to communicate.

The importance of UAS has become huge by implementing extensive applications which have made it very popular with the public as well as the private sector. Some of these sectors include the armed forces, meteorological agencies, the environment, and medical services. UAS manufacturers spend a great deal of time and money in research and developing high-tech and smart systems from the aircraft military as well as for small drones.

UAS is being used in just about every aspect of human activity, adding value to the need for its evolution. That said, it can also add to security risks. If you think about it, if you can buy a drone easily on the Internet, then it’s only a matter of time before it into the hands of cybercriminals. Right?

In this article, we’ll discuss how drones have evolved over the years. Additionally, we’ll share the danger of drones from a security perspective, and the various safe measures you can take to protect yourself.

The Evolution of Drones

If you were around 10 years ago and talked about drones, people would probably question if you had a sci-fi addiction. In this day and age, however, drones are simply a part of our lives. According to the FAA (U.S Federal Aviation Association) based on many surveys, market growth, forecasts, and operational information, the registration of drones will be with us for many years to come.

There are two factors you should consider:

  1. Drones have an airborne platform, but they also consist of a control station that is necessary for safe and effective operations through communication links.
  2. Today, there are so many drones that are cheaper, and also more complex.

This means all drones can be a serious risk for the safety of flights and for overall security. Because of this, drones naturally pose a serious issue and become a cybersecurity problem. In order to minimize the risks, software applications have been implemented to manage and control the negative side caused by drones.

Cybersecurity Threats Caused by Drones

Outside of airworthiness and safety, drones affect cyberspace and the security of your data. Reports show that the malicious use of these platforms in cyberspace can no longer be placed on the back burner.

Because drones are controlled remotely, hijacking by people wanting to do harm has become way too commonplace. The DHS or Department of Homeland Security said that due to their rapid technological advancement and proliferation, public safety, as well as homeland security communities, must address the simple fact that drones can maliciously harm people, disrupt their activities, and damage infrastructure.

GPS Spoofing

GPS spoofing is a type of cyberattack in which a malicious party sends false GPS signals to a target device in order to disrupt its navigation. This can be done for a variety of reasons, such as to steal data or to physically disable the device.

While GPS spoofing has traditionally been used against ground-based targets, such as vehicles and military hardware, there is a growing concern that it could also be used against drones.

Drones are increasingly being used for both commercial and military purposes, and they are typically controlled via GPS signals. This makes them prime targets for GPS spoofing attacks, which could have devastating consequences.

In addition to disrupting the drone’s navigation, a successful attack could also allow an attacker to gain control of the drone and its payload. This could lead to data breaches, physical damage, or even loss of life. As such, it is clear that GPS spoofing poses a serious cybersecurity threat that must be addressed.

Downlink Interception

Downlink interception is the act of intercepting communications from a drone to its operator. This can be done through various means, such as jamming the drone’s signal or hacking into its data connection.

While downlink interception can be used for benign purposes, such as disrupting the operation of a drone, it can also be used for more nefarious ends. By intercepting communications from a drone, an attacker can gain control of the drone and use it to conduct espionage or carry out attacks.

In addition, downlink interception can be used to gather intelligence on a target’s defenses and capabilities. As drones become increasingly prevalent in both civilian and military settings, downlink interception is likely to become a major concern for cybersecurity.

Data Exploitation

Critical infrastructure is protected by digital and physical security. Using drones can overwhelm physical security limitations and cybersecurity protections.

A small or mini-computer mounted on a small drone can approach undetected sensitive areas and carry out harmful operations by mimicking a Wi-Fi network to steal sensitive data, hijack Bluetooth peripherals, and perform keylogging operations to steal passwords as well as compromise access points, unsecured networks, and devices.

How To Reduce the Cybersecurity Risks of Drones

To alleviate the cybersecurity risks from drones you should:

  • Know how to secure the platform and the data being exchanged.
  • Know how to oppose drone platforms.

Securing Drones

If you want to protect yourself from the cybersecurity risks that come with owning and operating a drone, you must stay proactive.  It’s no different from securing a platform just like you would with any network device.

Here are some important tips to consider:

  • Update the drone’s firmware and apply any/all patches released by manufacturers.
  • Use strong passwords for the base station application.
  • Always use updated anti-virus software for your drone controller device.
  • Be sure to subscribe to a VPN service to encrypt your connection.
  • Always limit the number of devices that will be connected to the base station.
  • Use a “Return to Home” (RTH) mode to guarantee drone recovery from a hijack situation.

Counter Drones

Keep in mind, that drones fall under the consignment of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as UAS. This means that you cannot stop their communications or take them down. For more information on this, read our post on drone jamming.

Most counter drone tactics only apply to the military sector where different operational procedures are enforced when an unknown drone tries to enter the perimeter of the military base. These countermeasures should focus on space protection.

With that being said, it is vital to be able to effectively detect drones. Many security implementations include high-frequency radar and thermal cameras. RF scanners, acoustic sensors, and sophisticated machines along with AI algorithms are used specifically for this purpose. The downside: small-sized drones with a low speed makes detection very difficult within an extremely crowded environment.

Other counter drone techniques techniques include geofencing software, which will create a virtual border around the area by prohibiting unauthorized drone flights. The military sector also uses counter-dense systems known as “effectors”.

Summary

Drones are increasingly becoming a part of our everyday lives. From delivery services to security applications, these unmanned vehicles are rapidly changing the way we live and work.

However, as drones become more prevalent, so too do the cybersecurity risks associated with them. Hackers can exploit vulnerabilities in drone software to gain control of the devices, allowing them to spy on users, steal data, or even crash the drone. In some cases, they can even use drones to carry out physical attacks.

As a result, it is essential that we understand the cybersecurity risks associated with drones and take steps to mitigate them. One way to do this is to ensure that drones are built with strong security features from the ground up. Another is to develop secure protocols for managing and controlling drone fleets. By understanding the risks and taking steps to reduce them, we can ensure that drones remain a safe and valuable part of our lives.