Dronejacking may be the latest cyber threat, warns Intel’s cyber security company

Cyber criminals will take advantage of the rise in use of drones, leading to the hijacking of the flying machines, to steal packages and cameras, or knock out surveillance cameras

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 December, 2016, 9:32am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 December, 2016, 9:32am

A big rise in drone use is likely to lead to a new wave of “dronejackings” by cybercriminals, security experts have warned.

A recent report by Intel’s McAfee Labs said hackers are expected to start targeting drones used for deliveries, law enforcement and film crews.

“Drones are well on the way to becoming a major tool for shippers, law enforcement agencies, photographers, farmers, the media, and more,” said Intel Security’s Bruce Snell, in the company’s annual threat report.

Snell said the concept of dronejacking was demonstrated at a security conference last year, where researchers showed how easily someone could take control of a toy drone.

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“Although taking over a kid’s drone may seem amusing and not that big an issue, once we look at the increase in drone usage the potential for problems starts to arise,” he said.

The report noted that many consumer drones lack adequate security, which makes it easy for an outside hacker to take control.

Companies like Amazon and UPS are expected to use drones for package deliveries – becoming potential targets for criminals, the report said. Last week Amazon announced it had started a small private drone delivery trial in the UK.

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“Someone looking to ‘dronejack’ deliveries could find a location with regular drone traffic and wait for the targets to appear,” the report said. “Once a package delivery drone is overhead, the drone could be sent to the ground, allowing the criminal to steal the package.”

The researchers said criminals may also look to steal expensive photographic equipment carried by drones and to knock out surveillance cameras used by law enforcement.

Intel said it expects to see dronejacking “toolkits” traded on the dark web in 2017.

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“Once these toolkits start making the rounds, it is just a matter of time before we see stories of hijacked drones,” the report said.

Other predictions in the report include a decrease in so-called “ransomware” attacks as defences improve, but a rise in mobile attacks to steal bank account or credit card information.

The report also noted that cybercriminals will begin using more sophisticated artificial intelligence or “machine learning” techniques and employ fake online ads.