by Susanne Posel – Researchers at the University of Texas demonstrated to officials at the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) how drones could be hacked into through their navigation systems.
Known as “spoofing”, a false signal through the Global Positioning System (GPS) could be used to “trick” the drones into going onto a new course.
Thousands of drones will be released into US skies by the federal government, law enforcement and university research purposes. Todd Humphreys, assistant professor for the Cockrell School of Engineering believes that GPS satellites, which are not encrypted for civilian use, are a weak spot in the surveillance scheme. Humphreys stated: “The dirty fact is it’s an open signal, and easily hacked.”
Humphreys suggests that the GPS needs to be fortified with “electronic watermarks” that would cause signals to be difficult to falsify. This change would cost millions of dollars; however, Humphreys asserts that the encryption of GPS signals is essential to protecting government’s use of drones in US air space.
According to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) established 6 national drone test sites where the unmanned planes could fly through civilian air space.
President Obama signed the FAA Modernization and Reform Act in February of this year, demanding that the FAA “integrate operation of drones” into National Airspace by 2015.
“The navigations systems of these drones have a variety of sensors,” explains Humphreys, “ . . . but at the very bottom is a GPS unit — and most of these drones that will be used in the civilian airspace have a civilian GPS unit which is wide open and vulnerable to this kind of attack. So if you can commander the GPS unit, then you can basically spoon feed false navigation information to the navigation center of these drones.”
Michael Friel, spokesperson for DHS Customs and Border Protection unit commented that hacking through GPS does not affect the security of drones.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has confirmed that domestic drones are being flown in US air space by the federal government. An estimated 60 public and private organizations have been granted certificates of authorization (COAs) from the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) to fly drones for undisclosed purposes. The largest flyers of drones are universities, funded by grants by the federal government.
This forces the FAA to “write rules . . . on how it will license police, fire department and other public safety agencies eager to fly lightweight drones at low altitudes.”
I’m a big proponent of bringing in drones to the national airspace. They are going to come and we might as well expect it. The question is, how can we bring them in reliably? And right now the dangers of bringing them in, before addressing this problem, is that someone on the ground could hack the drones and turn them into their own device, making them go to a different place or along a different path. So it could cause loss of life, it could cause collisions. But I hope that we can address the problem long before that happens.
Vanguard, using drones for urban warfare, has been “touting the weaponized ShadowHawk to police departments in Ohio and Illinois, according to emails published online by the hackers collective AntiSec.”
AntiSec is a reformation of LulzSec which is a CIA front for an anonymous community of hackers that justify the US government’s need for continued surveillance of users on the Internet.
These “hacktivists” are actually US government agents pretending to be independent persons in a nameless, faceless hacking group hell-bent on cyber-attacking government agencies.
The mainstream media is proposing that since researchers working with Humphreys could hack into the drone’s GPS system and redirect its course, then Iran could do so as well. The Iranian government’s downing of a CIA drone last December was done so using “spoofing”. Humphreys simply proved that a military drone could be hacked; however, a civilian drone’s ability to be hijacked is still speculative.
The use of military drone is not limited to the unmanned aerial craft we are used to seeing. In fact, according to research at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) drones can be as small as a mosquito.
Greg Parker, aerospace engineer at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, explains: “We’re looking at how you hide in plain sight” for the purpose of carrying out espionage or kill missions.
Obama and his assassination czar, John Brennan, have created a secret kill list that they are using drones attacks or raids, establishing a new procedure for both military and CIA targets.
Susanne Posel is the Chief Editor of Occupy Corporatism.
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