Drone Use on the Rise, Public Safety at Risk

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Cybersecurity research firm IOActive has issued a stark warning about the potential, unseen risks surrounding the commercialization of drones – calling for manufacturers to take action.

In July 2018, analysts at Technavio predicted that the commercial drone market would grow by 36% (generating $11.61bn) between 2018 and 2022, but with that growth, IOActive has raised concerns about a range of new risks that could follow.

IOActive claimed that if the commercial market for drones is left unchecked, then we could start to see drones being weaponized, presenting potential hazards and threatening the safety of the public.

As drones become more commercially accessible and their functionality improves, they will also become more affordable, but what so often fails to keep pace when new tech such as this grows in popularity are in-built security features that keep it safe from malicious interference.

IOActive pointed to some key drone security risks that could arise as a result, including how malicious actors could program drones to fly to specific GPS coordinates to launch cyber-attacks on Wi-Fi networks (or other types of wireless networks), or even perform man-in-the-middle attacks and disseminate malware.

What’s more, there is also the real risk of disruption – seen recently in the chaos caused by drone sightings at Gatwick airport – and injury, with the potential for hacked drones to be used to ‘dive-bomb’ pedestrians or impact traffic intersections, IOActive explained. Then there’s the privacy issues, IOActive added, highlighting that drones have the capability to take photos and record audio and video in otherwise impossible to reach areas.

“With enough determination anything can be hacked, but the commercialization of the drone market is making it all too easy – and many of the consequences for security, safety and privacy have simply not been thought through,” said Cesar Cerrudo, CTO at IOActive.

“The range of drones is of particular concern as it opens up new areas of vulnerability that many will not have considered.”

Cerrudo urged manufacturers to shoulder their share of the responsibility for the products they are bringing to market to ensure they are as secure as possible.

“The relative speed at which these devices are taking to the sky raises several issues. While the use of drones within the military has been common for many years, those drones have been rigorously tested and built with security in mind – commercial manufacturers do not have the same concerns, they are more focused on getting their product to market than ensuring cybersecurity. This attitude needs to change.”

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