How to hack a drone

This week the founder of Amazon- Jeff Bezos, has announced that the planning process for Amazon Prime Air is moving forward. Some speculate that this could be an elaborate PR stunt, with the amount of background and information available on the project. I am inclined to believe the plan, especially with the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) beginning to relax laws on flying UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems) at designated altitudes, with no penalties or crazy regulation.

For those who are unfamiliar with the background of this service; Amazon intends to deliver small packages via drones to the wider public, with initial release solely for Metropolitan residents of the USA.

Hacking of drones up until this point has been speculation, as they are used primarily for recreational purposes on a rather small scale, it has never been viable or worthwhile to implement any penetration options, but should the sky be flooded with Amazon packages, some of reasonable value, this no longer stays the case.

At this point we are introduced to “Skyjack.” Those of you who are familiar with may remember him as the man who released the fastest spreading virus of all time, Myspace worm “Samy”. Samy has been busy, moving with the times and creating Skyjack, a custom, malicious drone that hacks into nearby drones allowing control to be handed to the Skyjack user via wireless network intrusion.

Others argue that if the on board drone systems were locked down, with any intruder traffic needing evaluation with steps being taken to verify authenticity, hacking should be next to impossible, but as with all smart electronics, there is always a back door.

All of these hacks were conducted on Parrot recreational drones, and we can assume that Amazon will not be using off the shelf, recreational drones, they would probably be using a multitude of drones that may need a more generic tool… Enter- Maldrone.

Maldrone, designed and then subsequently implemented by India based citrix engineer, Rahul Sasi. Maldrone is similar to Skyjack, in that close proximity to the drone is required. What makes it a little different is the fact that Maldrone is installed as an exploit on the primary drones systems, thus requiring implementation of a drone specific vulnerability first, such as, you guessed it, Skyjack. Once the exploit has been installed either via a Skyjack or via wireless penetration, complete lock out of the drone owner and transferral of control to the exploit end user occurs, thus rendering the drone, well and truly compromised.

In a video, readily available online, Rahul Sasi hacks a drone, connects it to his PC, thus giving him power over the machines sensors, then issuing a “kill command.” Once this exploit has been implemented, Sasi claims he could have had the drone fly wherever he wanted, or control any of its other functions for whatever purpose he sees fit.

Before Amazon Prime Air even has a release date we are seeing some quite clear security issues, with many more hackers, I’m sure, developing rival technologies for similar use, but with no set roll out date for Prime Air; Amazon has many months to come up with a reliable, penetration free option; if one ever truly exists in the world of technology.

This article was brought to you by Enex TestLab, content directors for CSO Australia.

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Tags Prime AirPR stuntSamy KamkarAmazon- Jeff Bezoscitrix engineerdronehacking

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